(The Canadian Press)

Canada, allies condemn China on Hong Kong law after contentious Meng ruling

Dispute did not dissuade Canada from criticizing China for imposing a national security law on Hong Kong

Canada joined with its major allies Thursday in condemning China for imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, one day after a contentious B.C. court ruling in the Meng Wanzhou affair.

The statement of “deep concern” with the United States, Australia and Britain comes as experts are warning that two Canadians imprisoned in China could face retaliation because Wednesday’s court ruling in the Meng case didn’t go the way the People’s Republic would have liked.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa angrily denounced the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the extradition case of the Huawei executive, who is wanted on fraud charges in the U.S., as it once more called for her immediate release.

The Meng dispute — which has plunged Sino-Canadian relations to an all-time low — did not dissuade Canada from signing on to a new statement that criticizes China for imposing a national security law on Hong Kong. The Chinese territory is supposed to have autonomy under a “one country-two systems” agreement.

“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous,” said the joint statement.

“China’s proposals for a new national security law for Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

Britain handed over its administration of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997 under the agreement.

The sharp criticism comes as the Trudeau government has been dealing with its own China crisis since December 2018.

Michael Kovrig, an ex-diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea, have been in Chinese prisons with no access to lawyers or their families since they were arrested nine days after Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on Dec. 1, 2018.

They are accused of violating China’s national security interests, and they have been denied even the regular monthly visits by Canadian diplomats since January because of COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese prisons.

Some analysts say their treatment could get a lot worse, especially based on recent Chinese government statements leading up to the ruling.

“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has served as a diplomat in Beijing.

“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the unresolved Meng case.

“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney.

“China will also seek to lash out at Canada.”

Fen Hampson, a global security expert with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada should rethink whether it needs to intervene politically to end the case rather than let it play out in the courts for years.

“You’ve got two Canadians who are in jail under fairly perilous circumstance, given COVID-19, and broader considerations at play in terms of Canada’s trade and investment relations with China,” said Hampson.

“Whatever happens, it will end up on the desk of the justice minister — he’s the one who has to decide whether she gets extradited or not. In some ways, you’re delaying the inevitable. The government is still going to have to make that decision.”

The roots of Canada’s current problems with China predate the Meng-Kovrig-Spavor affairs, said Wendy Dobson, an author and China expert who is co-director of the Institute for International Business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

The government’s current preoccupation with “diversifying” its trade relations with other Asian countries reflects a long-standing inability to do just that, she said.

“We’ve been saying this to ourselves for years, but we haven’t gotten very far,” Dobson said.

“We have not done a very good job of educating Canadians and deepening their understanding of who this partner is, where this partner comes from, and how to contribute in a way that is useful to both of us in the long term.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mounties seeking witnesses to Saturday shooting

Police say the victim isn’t providing investigators with information

South Surrey mom frustrated by city’s response after son, 10, has severe reaction to park grass 

City of Surrey parks manager says ‘potential steps’ to address concern under review

B.C.’s virtual ‘SoundON’ concerts kick off with sounds of Surrey festival

‘FVDED Broadcast’ from nightclub on July 18, as charity event

Surrey council approves $150 FOI fee for attendance requests at city facilities

This came before council’s meeting on Monday July 13

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

UPDATE: Mission spray park closed after children suffer swollen eyes, burns

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Professional basketball in Canada begins return to action with COVID-19 testing

Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, six other CEBL teams arrive in Ontario for Summer Series

Most Read