As Hong Kong pro-democracy tensions rise worldwide, some Canadians fear for safety with no guidance from Ottawa
|Toronto Star 16 Sep 2020 at 11:29|
Cherie Wong, a Canadian activist involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, is among those who were counting on the government committee for help.
Back in January, on a trip to Vancouver, the executive director of the Alliance Canada Hong Kong group received a call to her hotel room demanding that she leave immediately and that “people” were coming to collect her.
Wong reported the anonymous threat to police, but police have given her no updates on the case.
When she later spoke with the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations about her broader concerns for the safety of people from Hong Kong in Canada, she felt that politicians were giving the issues due consideration.
“But now we are back in statis. The uncertainty about how Canada will deal with China is an anxiety point, when there continues to be no action to support and protect Hong Kongers in Canada,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put Parliament on break Aug. 18. Since then, U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to block companies that outsource jobs to China, and clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed Himalayan border may have led to the death of one Indian soldier, according to Agence France-Presse.
Last week, two Australian journalists fled China after police demanded interviews with them and temporarily blocked their departures, marking further aggression that raises questions about the safety of Canadian journalists in China.
The reporters left in a hurry after Australian citizen Cheng Lei, a business news anchor for CGTN, China’s English-language state media channel, was detained in Beijing for an unclear “national security” issue.
Meanwhile, backlash over Disney thanking Chinese government agencies in the credits for “Mulan” has highlighted public concern over the ongoing internment of Uighur people in the Xinjiang territory of northwest China.
It’s a terrible time for work on Canada-China relations to grind to a halt, critics say. The committee was created in December when opposition parties banded together to force its creation with a goal of studying “all aspects” of the relationship between the two countries.
“It’s been an extremely active committee that has brought many things to light, such as the intimidation of Canadians on Canadian soil who have criticized the Chinese government’s human rights record,” said Garnett Genuis, a committee member and the Conservative Party’s Shadow Minister for International Development & Human Rights.
“The committee recently also passed a motion calling for dialogue towards the creation of genuine autonomy for Tibet. This was a big step forward, and unfortunately now, this motion will not be tabled in the House of Commons,” he told the Star.
In response to such criticism, a government spokesperson acknowledged that the “Canada-China special committee has done important work.”
“Our foreign relations should not be partisan … It will now be up to the House of Commons to determine what happens with it,” a Global Affairs spokesperson told the Star in an email.
Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said it is “highly regrettable” that Trudeau decided to prorogue Parliament just prior to the release of the International Human Rights Subcommittee and the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations’ reports on the situation of China’s Uighur people and the situation in Hong Kong.
“The (reports) would have likely included that the government take effective action to protect persons in Canada from harassment and menace by agents of the Chinese state,” Burton speculated.
However, experts say there are some things the Trudeau government can take action on now before Parliament is officially back in session.