Thursday, March 13, 2008

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs said "Canada has one-China policy" in House of Commons Today

Mr. Chris Warkentin (Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, earlier this week we heard of hundreds on monks in Tibet who were staging peaceful protests demanding improved treatment and religious freedom. They are asking for human rights. Yet we have heard that these protests have been met with force, monks have been detained and monasteries have been surrounded by Chinese troops.
Canadians enjoy the right to demonstrate peacefully and to practise religion freely.Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs provide the House with what the government's reaction is to this news out of Tibet ?
Hon. Maxime Bernier (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canada has one-China policy. We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Tibet . We have consistently urged China to respect freedom or expression, freedom of association, freedom of religion for all Tibetans.
These latest developments in Tibet are very troubling for us and for Canadians. We urge China to respect the right of Tibetans to peaceful protests and to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Tibet .
14:46 (60)

Comment: I think that the friendly question from a fellow Conservative did not require the observation that "Canada has a one-China policy." The answer is quite complete without that. The Minister was presumably fully prepared to answer the question, so the comment was purposive. When we established diplomatic relations with the PRC in October 1970 the formula was that Canada recognizes the PRC government as the "sole legal government of China" and "takes note" of China's position that Taiwan is an "inalienable part of the territory" of the PRC. The PRC Foreign Ministry opposes the idea of nations having a policy of "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan." But the language "one-China policy" originates with the PRC authorities, not with Canada. So it would suggest that M. Bernier is suggesting a subtle but meaningful change in Conservative Government rhetoric on China that would be very well received by the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa. It would suggest that Canada supports Chinese Government claims to legitimate sovereignty over Taiwan and over Tibet. There are likely different views within the Conservative Party as to the necessity for such a clear and unambiguous statement of concurrence with the Chinese Government's strong desire that Canada affirm that "Canada has a one-China policy." Many Canadians of Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uighur origin will not be supportive of this statement by our Foreign Minister in the House.  
That being said of course Canada acknowledges PRC sovereignty over the areas in the Beijing government's control and Canada continues to "take note of" the PRC stance on Taiwan.  But any statement beyond that could be construed as Canadian interference in Chinese domestic affairs.

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