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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Harper & Co. have got to get their China act together

Here's my letter to the Sun: I couldn’t agree more with Barbara Yaffe (Harper & Co. have got to get their China act together). I am stunned that Canada suddenly gives the white glove treatment to Communist China ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At this crucial time when the international community views China as a major world concern for many reasons--Canada’s rhetoric not to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation--means that we are simply embracing China’s good and bad side. A recent Angus-Reid poll showing that 77% of Canadians value human rights in the political arena should be reason enough for Harper & Co. to stand by Canadian values. It's time to walk the walk, otherwise are we not just helping China to keep their big lies alive in order not to blemish the Games’ happy face, namely, nobody was killed in Tinanmen, Falun Gong adherents are happy to donate their organs and Tibetans love China. Can somebody help them find the Middle way please?


Vancouver Sun: May 17, 2007 - How cute -- China lecturing Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay last week on who should and should not visit Taiwan.

The Chinese are fuming about Canadian MPs who have been regularly accepting invitations to visit Taipei.

This latest tiff serves to draw attention to Stephen Harper's Sino dilemma. Canada and China definitely are not cosy these days and Harper appears at a loss to confront the challenge of fostering better ties.

The PM is under serious pressure from the business community, which has obvious reasons for wanting robust relations with China.

B.C. cabinet minister David Emerson is front man on the China file, promoting the Asia-Pacific Gateway initiative for his home province and travelling over yonder to press flesh.

Harper, too, has tried courting China, last October giving the back of his hand to Taiwan.

In an interview with a Vancouver-based Chinese-language newspaper, Harper pandered to Beijing, asserting Canada would not "extend de facto recognition to the Taiwanese government. We believe it is an integral part of China."

This was at odds with ideas Harper's caucus had been embracing before the Conservatives took power in early 2006.

Conservative MP Jim Abbott went so far as to sponsor a private member's bill, the Taiwan Relations Act, to normalize relations with the burgeoning democracy of 23 million, which -- by choice of the Taiwanese people -- functions in every conceivable way as a fully independent nation.

If Canada wishes to stand as a beacon of democracy and human rights -- and, when necessary, Harper's constituency is prepared to have military force used to support such things -- it's pretty well impossible for the PM to keep up a good working relationship with China.

The fact is, the Chinese, by their past actions, are not into doing the Right Thing. They don't deserve Canada's respect.

But Harper and MacKay need to start getting their stories straight. Are they prepared to stand tall for Canadian values, or not? If so, why exclude Taiwan when speaking out on democratic values?

Yet, there was MacKay last week, again pandering to Beijing which had chastised Canada for allowing MPs to visit Taiwan on Taipei-financed fact-finding missions. Said MacKay wimpily: "We have not officially recognized Taiwan, ever."

Many voters who support Conservative principles have considerable sympathy for the reality of the Taiwanese position. Taiwan is obviously separate from China, collecting taxes from and passing laws adhered to by its people.

How dare China, a foreign power, try to dissuade Canadian MPs from travelling anywhere they choose? China needs to recognize, a whole lot of folks just don't buy the fiction about Taiwan being "a renegade province" of China.

This, after all, is the same China that has refused Canadian consular access to Huseyin Celil, a minority rights activist with dual Canadian-Chinese citizenship who in April was imprisoned for life in China.

Celil had been travelling with his Canadian passport in Uzbekistan when he was picked up, taken to China and charged with terrorist activities.

This is the same China that this spring left the world facing a crisis relating to pet food because wheat gluten and rice protein of Chinese origin was found to be contaminated with melamine.

This is the same China that has yet to answer for an egregious scandal involving the harvesting of human organs from persecuted Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Two respected Canadians, lawyer David Matas and former MP David Kilgour, issued a report last July concluding that human organs from thousands of Falun Gong adherents have been taken from executed people and sold, mostly to foreigners. (The rights of Falun Gong practitioners receive full protection in Taiwan.)

This is the same China that tried to cover up a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003 that left Canada unaware of and unprepared for the threat which thereafter resulted in a serious epidemic in Toronto.

Nearly 150 cases were recorded in that city, with a subsequent death toll of 23.

The Harper government would like the benefit of China's tourism and trade, but this prime minister has pledged to stand up for Canadian values. He must be consistent to be believable.

byaffe@png.canwest.com

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