Friday, May 15, 2015

Some of Charles Burton's Responses to Questions from Commons Foreign Affairs C'tee on Hong Kong

    If we do nothing and take the attitude that China is a very large country, Hong Kong is a small place, and our interest is in keeping the Chinese Communist regime happy so that it won't interfere with our trade, that would be exactly what the Chinese government would hope would happen, that we would simply sacrifice Hong Kong to the greater good to Canada of other aspects in the relationship with China.
    I would argue that this sort of irresponsible non-response by us would have the opposite effect, because we would lose respect from the Government of China. We could expect them to be pushing the envelope more in areas of concern to us, such as the consular case of Kevin Garratt, cyber-espionage in Canada, and unfair trade arrangements that do concern us now.

    It's clear that China has serious economic interests in Canada, in the energy and mineral sector, and that these political issues will not damage the overall Chinese interest in getting what Canada has to offer as a stable supplier of energy and minerals products. I think a lot of it is rhetoric designed to try to cow the Government of Canada into not speaking out on our concerns over allegations of serious human rights abuses in China.

    Up to now, I don't think any relationship has been established between Canadian statements and our economic or other interests in China. I actually did a study of this, looking at the statistics to see, for example, if we were doing better with China on trade under the Chrétien period of quiet diplomacy on human rights, and I could not find any relationship. In fact, our market share in China increased under Mr. Harper after he made his statements about not selling out our values to the almighty dollar.

    In general, our expectation is that the Chinese government should be respecting international agreements that are made, and that would extend to the WTO and all the international agreements that China has ascribed to.
    I think there is a tendency of the Government of China to push the envelope beyond the normal range for interpretation of these agreements, and I think that we should be making it clear that we are not going to stand idly by and let that happen. With regard to article 45, raised by Mr. Garneau, it's the same sort of thing. There is no question that when the Government of China and the Government of Britain were representing to the Government of Canada how this thing was going to pan out, it was not going to be a sham election in 2017 but an election where Hong Kong people would be able to freely elect representatives of the aspirations of the people in Hong Kong so that they could maintain the character of Hong Kong and the existing laws and practices, including freedom of speech and freedom of expression, until the 50 years were over. That's the way we understood it, and that's the way it was represented to us by the Chinese.
    Do Hong Kong people who are claiming that they support the agreement genuinely want to see their human rights limited? How many people want their Internet access limited? How many members of the Roman Catholic Church would like to see the Roman Catholic Church become an illegal organization, as it is in the People's Republic of China, where they won't recognize the authority of a foreign figure, the Pope, and have to belong to something called the Catholic Patriotic Association?
    People yearn to enjoy the benefits of citizenship and to be free, and I think that this is what we want to preserve in Hong Kong, because we can. In terms of China, we don't have an international agreement that compels the Chinese government to treat its people in any particular way beyond the normal expectations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but its sovereignty over Hong Kong is limited by the joint declaration. We endorse that declaration, and if we don't hold them to it, the Chinese government will continue accordingly in its relations with Canada, which is that we don't expect them to maintain the promises they make to us.

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