Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Opium Use in Canada Legal Until 1908

This correspondence arose out of an interview with me quoted in John Ibbitson's report "With execution of British man, China sends a signal" published in the Globe and Mail on December 30:

Professor Burton,
    Following quotation is from The Globe and Mail about your comments on Chinese execution on British drug-smuggler.
   "The execution, Prof. Burton said, should serve as a warning to any foreigner visiting or living in China that justice in that country can be brutal, capricious and swift, and that foreigners are not protected."
    I donot understand how you make conclusion that justice in China is brutal, capricious and swift. I suggest you to read some articles about Opium war between Qing Dynasty and Britain. Opium is the product British sells to China 170 years ago without any justice and conscience. Why donot you quote opium war to make comments on justice? why not Canadian allow British to sell opium to Canada?  thank you for your time to read my questions.

My response:
Thanks for your comment.  Actually opium was a common and legal import from China into Canada until 1908 (more than 60 years after the 1st Opium War that ended with the Anglo-Chinese Treaty of Nanking of 1842).  It was a significant source of customs duty to the Dominion of Canada at that time peaking in 1891 at over $146,000 that year.  Opium was brought into Canada in raw form and processed in B.C.  In 1888 there were 13 licensed opium factories in B.C. that produced almost 90,000lbs of opium a year that sold for $15/pound.  It was also available mixed into processed medicines over that period.  It is a common misconception  that Britain sold a product to China that was illegal in Britain.  Even Lin Zexu 林则徐 thought this as he indicated in correspondence with Queen Victoria.  In fact opium use was legal in Britain at the time.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why the Xinhua News Agency Self Censors

I have been reading reports in the New York Times about the trial and sentencing of Liu Xiaobo for his role in drafting the Charter 08.

Here are 3 extracts from 3 reports:
"Xinhua carried the statement [of Mr. Liu's sentencing to 11 years in prison] only on its English-language service, and
not its Chinese service, an indication the news was for foreign
consumption and not for the Chinese public to know." (
"The state-controlled media has not covered Mr. Liu’s trial — nor has it allowed any mention of Charter 08." (
"Charter 08 signers have tried to show their solidarity by issuing letters
of protest over his case. The most recent one, signed by 165 people,
states, 'If Liu Xiaobo is found "guilty" that means each one of us is
guilty, and we have to shoulder the punishment together with Liu
Xiaobo.'” (

The gist of these 3 put together confirms my suspicion that the Chinese régime's objection to foreign expressions of concern about reports alleging human rights violations in China is primarily based in fear that people in China will be become aware of human rights discourse and become sensitized to the Chinese régime's suppression of the rights and entitlements of Chinese citizens.  So the Communist Party is not genuinely mainly concerned about this as a foreign policy issue of sovereignty but rather as a domestic policy issue of maintaining their authoritarian one-party rule as all costs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Strengthening ties with China will not prevent the Canadian government from promoting respect for human rights."

According to a December 25 AFP report  entitled "Canada 'deplores' sentencing of Chinese dissident" about the DFAIT statement on Liu Xiaobo:
 "Canada's conservative government has sought in recent months to develop stronger economic ties with China, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Beijing in early December. But Ottawa has also stressed that strengthening ties with China will not prevent the Canadian government from promoting respect for human rights."

Friday, December 25, 2009

“The Government of Canada is fully committed to promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide"

Canada Deplores China’s Sentencing of Liu Xiaobo

(No. 396 - December 25, 200911:55 p.m. EST) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement regarding the 11-year prison sentence given to Chinese intellectual and dissident Liu Xiaobo by the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court:
“Canada deplores the sentencing of Liu Xiaobo, whom we believe is being punished for exercising his right to peaceful and non-violent freedom of expression.
“Canada is concerned by Mr. Liu’s lengthy detention, which began a year ago. We are also deeply concerned by the circumstances of his trial, which was not open, and to which family members and foreign observers—including Canadian Embassy representatives—were denied access.
“As we have done since Mr. Liu’s detention began, Canada once again urges China to release him without condition.
“The Government of Canada is fully committed to promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide.”
- 30 -
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Natalie Sarafian
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Heroic Statement by Stainless Steel Mouse

My Statement of Confession - Willing to Share Responsibility for Offence with Liu Xiaobo

By Liu Di

December 23, 2009, the day of Xiaobo's trial

To: The Beijing First Intermediate People's Court, the No. 1 Branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate and the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau

I am Liu Di, also known as Stainless Steel Mouse on Internet.

Considering that the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and the No. 1 Branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate have completed the investigation and prosecution of Liu Xiaobo's case of inciting subversion of state power and delivered to the Beijing First Intermediate People's Court to be tried on December 23, considering that three organs mentioned above have taken Charter 08 as an important criminal evidence against Liu Xiaobo, and considering that I am one of the signatories and organizing plotters, I am now "giving up to confess" to you according to the paragraphs 3 and 4 of PRC Criminal Procedure Law. I declare the following:

1) My "giving up to confess" does not mean that I agree that your allegations and trial against Liu Xiaobo is lawful and just. On the contrary, I believe that the Charter 08, which , Liu Xiaobo and other has drafted, organized, planned and signed, is an outstanding service to promote the country to constitutional democracy and benefit nation's future and people's welfare. I am honored and proud to have been in it.

2) Since you has accounted Mr. Liu Xiaobo's launching of the Charter movement as a crime based on your special values, I must be an integral part of this case because I not only completely agree with the spiritual value of this document but also have been involved in its organizing, planning and operating activities. I should be an accomplice of Liu Xiaobo's case. According to the principle of equality before law, you should take me as Liu Xiaobo's accomplice to judge us together, but not make selective justice to leave out such an important criminal suspect as me.

3) As a judgment of values, a judicial trial should be examined by history. Czech Republic's Charter 77 movement in 1977, Taiwan's Formosa Incident in 1979, and China's Charter 08 movement in 2008 are all the just acts of the people fighting for human rights, freedom and democracy. The former two campaigns have already been justified by history, and so will the latter. As judicial staff, you should bear in mind to safeguard the dignity of the Constitution. To safeguard the people's constitutional rights is your bounden duty.

In 2003, I published an article, Worms of Persimmon Oil (liberals) surrendering to the Party and Government, condemning the authorities for violation of the citizens' constitutional rights to freedom of expression, and so had been detained for one year on the charges cooked up by the Beijing Public Security Bureau. I have known well that losing freedom is a great pain of life, thus full of fear and boredom of imprisonment. However, for the dignity of Constitution and laws, and for no more imprisonment of the people in the future due to their free speeches and independent opinions, I would prefer to share with Mr. Liu Xiaobo the same case with the same penalty.

Liu Di, a Beijing resident

Friday, December 18, 2009

China's "Dialogue" on Climate Change

China's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei is quoted in thie morning's National Post as saying with regard to the Chinese Government's position on the Copenhagen negotiations on climate change measures that "I think the financial issue is very important. Whatever initiative these countries will announce is a good step.  .  .  . in terms of mitigation actions [emissions curbs], we can also consider, international exchange, dialogue and co-operation that is not intrusive and does not infringe upon our sovereignty" ("China may compromise with U.S. on emissions cuts after $100B pledge"

But as with all of China's international treaty commitments, including those to the UN on human rights, the crux of the matter is that once the terms are set and the documents signed and sealed, then the discussion and negotiations about the nature of the mutual obligations agreed to have to cease.  That means that China cannot blithely accept the West's billions and then claim national sovereignty protects China from having the West "intrude" to ensure that China is in fact keeping its side of the deal.  The key is "trust but verify."  Specious Chinese processes of "international exchange, dialogue and co-operation" after the West has cut China a huge cheque cannot be used to obstruct and obfuscate effective verification measures designed to ensure that China is in fact delivering on what Canada and our allies are asked to pay for.