Monday, November 27, 2006

Consensus on China Policy Forming

My website has links to the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China letter to Prime Minister Harper of October 6, 2006 which urges the Government to implement my report on the Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue and to the media reports on the Prime Minister's comments to the press that he made on the 'plane while heading to the APEC meeting in Vietnam.

Now senior Liberal Party policy advisor, Tom Axworthy has issued his The Four Key Questions: An Essay on Liberal Renewal ( It says: "We need a two-part strategy in dealing with China: first, people-to-people exchanges, scholarships, and business partnerships should be encouraged. As many Chinese citizens as possible should be exposed to a real democracy and to our thriving civil society. The peaceful transition of China from autocracy to democracy is one of the great potential 'what ifs' of world history, and anything Canada is able to do, in a modest way, to help this along, would be useful. Inviting large numbers of Chinese students, for example, to study our legal system – and especially the Charter of Rights – could have very beneficial impacts within China itself. So Canadians must work on developing friendships with the Chinese people. But the same does not apply to the Communist regime. The Communist regime abuses its own people at home, and supports autocracies abroad. There is no question that life in China has greatly improved in recent decades, and life today does not compare to the horrors of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. But, civil liberties are still not respected and the current regime has embarked on a severe crackdown on journalists, internet users, and dissidents. Many Canadian businessmen worry about raising human rights abuses, but they should also realize that there is no such thing as property rights in China. The state-owned business sector in China, far from being autonomous, still follows the dictates of the Party. The Communist regime cannot be isolated; it must be dealt with because it controls China. But it is also a mistake to treat it as if its dictatorial tendencies do not matter. The future of the regime will be decided within China. But any potential Chinese Gorbachevs should be able to use international legitimacy as one reason why the existing regime should reform. In particular, Canadian assets should not be allowed to be sold to state-owned Chinese companies. Security considerations should be added to the criteria of Investment Canada. Human rights should be raised in a forceful and regular way with the Communist leadership so that they know that such values are central to Canada and central to the relationship. Our strategy toward China should be – engage, but never kowtow."

Most recently, BDO Dunwoody has issued a CEO/Business Leader Poll by COMPAS published in The Financial Post on November 27 entitled "Human Rights in China: Harper's Public Diplomacy Outperforms Chretien's Quiet Diplomacy; Excellent for Human Rights, Neutral for Business" which can be accessed at

It appears that a national consensus on Canada's future China policy is forming.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fragment of E-Mail from a Student Who Saw Me on Chinese TV being interviewed by Diana Xiaoping Dai

From: XXXX
To: Charles Burton
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2006 8:10:28 PM
Subject: XXXX is very impressed!
I don't want you to think that this is a big surprise to me, but I saw you fluently speaking Chinese on OMNI 2 (channel 15). In fact, it seemed as though you were more fluent than the hot Chinese babe who was interviewing you! I sat and watched you for 10 minutes, not understanding a word but incredibly impressed.

Comment: a surprising number of non-Chinese speakers have contacted me to say that they were taken aback to see me on Chinese-language TV news programs. It seems that people channel surf more than one might think.

E-Mail about Citizenship & Immigration Canada PRRA decisions and my Report

From: XXXX
To: Charles Burton
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 3:32:15 PM
Subject: Citizenship & Immigration Canada PRRA decisions and your Report:

Pre-Removal Risk Assessments Based on your July 14, 2004 Report entitled "Report on Matters relating to Canadian-born Children Resident in China Whose Parents are Citizens of the People's Republic of China"

I am the lawyer for a number of failed refugee claimants in Vancouver, B.C. who had made claims based on the one child policy in China. This report above had been used on a number of instances as reasons why these claimants who have had children born here in Canada should be returned to China. Are you at liberty to e-mail me or direct me to a copy of this report? Moreover, would you like to see excerpts of decisions (mostly from the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Unit of CIC) based on your Report? Thanks in advance.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mr. Harper, Mr. Hu, Mr. Celil, Human Rights, Trade and Canada-China Relations

Charles Burton
Associate Professor, Political Science Brock University
Former diplomat at Canadian Embassy in Beijing
Author of “Assessment of the Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue” report released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and current subject of review by the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights and Development
FAX: (209)231-4087

The unexpected cancellation of a scheduled meeting between our Prime Minister and the President of China while both were in Vietnam for the APEC Meeting has stimulated much public debate over Canada’s foreign policy toward China. The belief among many is that Mr Harper’s office had advised Mr. Hu’s office that Canada wanted the leaders to address matters related to human rights and that the Chinese refused to have human rights put on the agenda. Sso Canada was “snubbed” by China. But it appears that it was not human rights that the Chinese President did not want raised by Canada, but rather a consular case of a Canadian citizen, Huseyincan Celil, who is currently languishing in a Chinese jail. Despite many requests, the Chinese Government refuses to abide by the Vienna Convention and let Canadian diplomats meet with Mr. Celil at the prison so that they can know that he remains in good health. Canada also has a right under international law to attend any court hearing held for Mr. Celil to ensure that Mr. Celil is extended due process of law and a fair trial. So far China has refused to respond to Canadian requests for this consular access to Mr. Celil. It is therefore reasonable as some months have passed without any resolution, that we try and get some answers out of China at the most senior level. Mr. Celil’s fate is probably in the hands of China’s Security Ministry. Mr. Hu is not a democratically elected president but relies on the support of the military and security apparatus to remain in power. So President Hu may be in the embarrassing position of being unable to do the right thing by Canada in this matter. So perhaps his people decided on balance it is best Mr. Hu not meet with Mr. Harper at all. .This is regrettable in the sense that meeting is always preferable to not meeting, but in the final analysis it probably does not matter much one way or the other. The fundamentals of Canada-China relations do not depend on whether or not our leaders have a bilateral get together at APEC.

Actually there is no evidence that there is any relationship between human rights and trade in our bilateral relationship with China. Whether we choose to address our concerns over China’s human rights record through “quiet diplomacy” or through frank, open and effective engagement is unlikely to have any impact on Canadian and Chinese economic relations. The Chinese are pragmatists. They will always want the best product and the best service at the best price. If Canada offers the best deal, they will buy from Canada regardless. China will not sacrifice its economic interests because it is losing a debate with us or any other nation over whether or not China is compliant with its obligations to the UN Human Rights Covenants that China is signatory to: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. China may accuse Canada of betraying the traditional friendship between our nations. This sort of lament and implied threats if we do not follow China’s prescriptions with regard to Tibet and Taiwan is standard procedure in China’s public diplomacy to deflect foreign criticism of its human rights record. But in the end the Chinese authorities know very well that in international relations there are no true friends, only national interests. Anyway it is better to that we be respected by the Chinese regime for holding to our deeply held principles than praised by them for our implied support of their rule. It is in the interests of Canada to stand up for people in China who are suffering from social injustice and cannot speak out for themselves due to China’s repression of their right to organize and to speak their minds out to an authoritarian Government that prefers not to hear from them. That China should be governed in accordance with the universal norms of human rights is something that all Canadians believe is best for the Chinese people. In fact it is the firm entitlement of all Chinese citizens as members of the human family. Canadians must demand that their Government make this a policy priority. This is not a politically partisan issue. It is what all Canadians know is the right thing to do.

China has changed dramatically in recent years. It is a more mature and confident nation as it rapidly rises to major power status. There are more and more new opportunities for Canada to grasp in trade and investment, political and cultural exchanges, and immigration month by month and year by year. But in recent years other nations have passed us by continuously updating their approach to relations with China while Canada’s engagement with China has stagnated. Canada’s loss of market share in China trade over the past years compared with Europe, the US and Australia is just one indicator that there is urgent need for us to be doing our China policy better. It is time that Canada renovates its China policy in all aspects to meet the challenge of the 21st century. This is very important to Canada’s future as a leading economy and responsible member of the global community.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Appearance before a Parliamentary Subcommittee

On October 31, 2006 I was invited to appear before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on October 31, 2006. I presented the report I wrote for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled "Assessment of the Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue" and responded to questions from MPs about human rights programming in Canada 's relations with China over a two-hour session held in the West Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Representatives of Amnesty International and Rights and Democracy also urged the Subcommittee to support implementation of the “Burton Report.”

Before I booked travel to Ottawa, the Clerk of the Subcommittee referred me to the "Guide for Witnesses Appearing Before Committees of the House of Commons." One fragment from this document that gave me pause to think is given below:

"Summoning Witnesses

In the vast majority of cases, committees are able to obtain the evidence they seek by inviting witnesses to appear before them. However, if a witness has declined an invitation to appear, a committee may issue a summons to that witness by adopting a motion to that effect. If a proposed witness fails to appear when summoned, the committee may report the fact to the House. The House then takes any action it deems appropriate."

This document is available at