Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rough translation by me of report about Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue published in Singtao Daily News June 12, 2007

Request for financial aid in exchange for sensitive topics, Chinese human rights have a price, Canada proposes to suspend Dialogue

By Singtao Daily reporter Mary Yang

The Government of China has requested that the Government of Canada provide financial aid in exchange for Canada being allowed to bring up more sensitive issues in the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue and for greater participation by NGOs. According to unnamed sources, Canada has never responded to China's demand. Liberal Member of Parliament, Bryon Wilfert condemns this proposal by China as unacceptable. Amnesty International calls upon the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to immediately make public the report on China's human rights. On Monday, The Globe and Mail reported on the content of the report assessing the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue, indicating that China has requested "financial aid in exchange for discussion of sensitive human rights issues." Charles Burton who was responsible for writing the assessment report told the Sing Tao Daily News that officials of the Chinese Foreign Ministry made two requests of Canada during a meeting that took place in 2005. These were a request that Canada provide scholarships for Chinese officials to pursue M.A. degrees in Canada and for short term study visits, and a request that Canada provide a $60,000 contribution to Yunnan Province.

The Chinese officials indicated that if Canada responded favourably to their requests that it would establish a friendship relationship between Canada and China, and that this would lead to benefits. It would lead to a higher quality of Chinese officials coming to work in agencies that deal with human rights. It would make it easier for them to request permission from higher levels and get permission for more issues of a more sensitive nature to be discussed in the bilateral human rights dialogues, and to gain permission for more NGOs to participate in the dialogues. But the Chinese officials did not specify what sensitive topics these would be.

Charles Burton said that this was not the first time has brought up these requests. If he remembers correctly, Australia donated money to construct a school in China. The Chinese officials suggested that Canada could do the same as Australia.

Charles Burton indicated that Canada made clear to China that Ottawa could not fulfil these requests from China because Canada has no means to provide the requested funds. Yunnan is also not one of the Chinese provinces that Canada has identified as priority areas for poverty relief. Moreover, Canada feels that it would be inappropriate to do this.

He speculates that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been assigned responsibility to assist in alleviating poverty in Yunnan, so they would like Canada to lend a hand with this. This incident reflects the Chinese view that the human rights dialogue is designed to help the Government of Canada respond to Canadian citizens' concerns about human rights in China. "They do not feel that China derives any benefit from participating in the human rights dialogue."

Bryon Wilfert believes that the means proposed by China is "completely unacceptable." Human rights is a matter of principle.

Alex Neve, the Secretary General of the Canadian Branch of Amnesty International, also believes that it is unacceptable. "Human rights will never have a price." He points out, this should not be about the "degree of friendship" between Canada and China, but is about the two sides taking objective measures to improve China's human rights.

The House of Commons Human Rights Subcommittee has already adopted a report on China's human rights. One of its purposes is to examine the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue. It is presently slated to be further reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Singtao Daily News has learnt that this secret report recommends suspending the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue until major changes are made in it. The Foreign Affairs Committee has reviewed this report in-camera in one session, but has not put this report back on its agenda since.

Information from a source close to the Committee indicates that officials representing the Government had taken the Standing Committee as a rubber stamp and had expected a rapid adoption of the report. But members of opposition parties opposed acting in haste because the 19 recommendations of the report touch on sensitive areas. There is also information suggesting that some members and Party supporters hold views at odds with those of the Human Rights Subcommittee.

Looking at the current Parliamentary agenda, it is unlikely that the Committee will be able to review the China human rights report until Parliament meets again in the fall.

Alex Neve characterized the Foreign Affairs Committee's actions as extremely disappointing. The Committee should immediately make public the report.

For Chinese original of this text see: Please advise me of any errors in the above translation.

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