Thursday, October 23, 2014

Desperate for Deals, Canadian, BC Political Leaders Quiet on Hong Kong Democracy Protests - Offer No Support

Democracy protest fills Hong Kong streets. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons licensed.
Stephen Harper and Christy Clark choose trade over democracy to pump up resource exports to China

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday October 21, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

The fact that you are allowed to stay alive already shows the country's inclusiveness."
- Zhang Xiaoming, the head of China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, to local legislators
How violently China responds to Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests will not only determine the fate of millions there; it will also have a major impact in Metro Vancouver and Canada.
Despite the massive trade Canada does with China, extensive travel between the two countries and the friendliness of federal, provincial and municipal governments towards China, it remains run by a repressive, military, allegedly "communist" dictatorship.
A Chinese crackdown in the former British colony would have serious political and economic consequences in British Columbia, as the province hopes to sell liquefied natural gas and increase exports of other natural resources to the Asian giant.
There are over 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong, and those with relatives and friends there are concerned about their safety.
Rightly so, given Zhang Xiaoming's brutal response to local lawmakers after they asked if Beijing would allow a democrat to run for the position of Hong Kong Chief Executive, the region's highest office.
"No" was the answer. Choose from Beijing's approved candidates only, or else.
It could mark the end of a "one country, two systems" approach that has allowed limited democracy and freedom in Hong Kong while it remains part of China.
But despite the rising tensions, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to say anything about Hong Kong, while B.C. Premier Christy Clark merely mouths vague hopes that violence will be avoided.
'Ottawa capitulated to China'
If actions speak louder than words, Harper's upcoming visit to Beijing in November for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings -- after ratifying a controversial trade deal with China -- says it all.
Harper quietly approved the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) in September, a deal so bad that veteran right-wing commentator Diane Francis wrote: "Ottawa capitulated to China on everything."
She went on: "The Tories, backed by a naïve Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a handful of big, conflicted business interests, have demonstrated the worst negotiating skills since Neville Chamberlain."
Meanwhile, the only public expression of Canadian government support for democracy is this lonely tweet by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird: "Aspirations of people of #HongKong are clear. Canada supports continued freedom of speech and prosperity under the rule of law."
The ministry followed up in a statement: "Canada reiterates its support for the implementation of universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council in 2020, in accordance with the basic law and the democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people."
Don't expect Clark's support
Also desperate for deals with China, Premier Clark certainly isn't offering pro-democracy forces any solid support. She visited the country last December.
"It's really positive that the protests have been peaceful and no one's life is in jeopardy. It is, though, a very tense time, I know that," she optimistically said on Oct. 2, while adding that she continues to support "one country, two systems."
But with B.C. exporting $7 billion to China last year, one-third of Canada's total, Clark chooses trade over democracy.
Just like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which in June publicly opposed Hong Kong's democracy protests, along with other international business groups.
But former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney, appointed by Harper in 2009, says we have an obligation to speak out in support of democracy, and should coordinate with other countries to do so.
"China would like to see a world where we're all tongue tied and afraid of raising these issues," Mulroney said.
The last British governor of the city, Chris Patten, compared the election Beijing wants held, with its own hand-picked candidates as the only choice, to "more or less what happens in Iran."
Silencing critics
Mulroney points out that China is very sensitive to criticism, as I personally discovered the hard way.
I received extremely graphic and obscene death threats in 2008 after I wrote a column suggesting a boycott of China, not just the Olympic Games, over its treatment of Tibetan protesters.
The emailed threats included specific information, with the individual saying they had a gun and was inside an office where I worked, and claiming they would also kill my family.
After reporting the threats to Vancouver police after the emailer promised even more violent attacks, two officers arrived at my home within an hour.
Police soon found that the emails came from inside China, and said the Chinese government does not cooperate with foreign internet investigations. Case closed.
Fortunately, no further threats were received, and there was no evidence they came from anyone but a sick individual. But China's unwillingness to investigate shows that trying to silence critics of the regime in foreign countries goes unpunished. 
Canada's pathetic response to supporting Hong Kong democracy contrasts with China's ferocious opposition, and encourages using overwhelming force against brave protestors who are simply demanding what we take for granted: a vote.



Bill Tieleman said...

In case anyone doubted the democratic commitment of Hong Kong's current embattled leader Leung Chun-ying, here is his view of what a disaster would ensue if universal suffrage - everyone gets to voted - were implemented there:

"If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month," Leung told reporters.

“Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies."

Yikes - poor people would get to vote!

Cited in the Washington Post - see:

Hugh said...

So thanks to China-FIPA, a Chinese investor can now sue Canada over laws, made by any level of government in Canada, they don't like. Great. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is a real fluffy subject. What could BC or Canada possibly do? Just say "we're opposed to what is happening"? Big deal.

Despite what the NDP and The Left likes to think the PRC can do what ever it decides, even if it stupidly decides to go ahead with the approved candidates for a joke of an election.

A small group of Left wingers isn't going to be listened to even by the citizens of Hong Kong.

The BCNDP has a history of getting beyond it's provincial borders.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Thanks for the observation Bill. I was not looking for any of the governments of Canada to even approach China's toes, nevermind step on them, and thereby failed to make the same response myself. Sad, sad, sad bit of high corruption this is no matter what angle it is looked at from.

Anonymous said...

Adrian C.Y. Fu said...

I highly doubt that the Vancouver Police Department or you know anything about the Internet and emails because you have not provided any evidence to show that these emails came from somebody in China. Also, you should check these articles before you decide to bash China: and
As Chairman Mao said, "War is politics with bloodshed, and politics is war without bloodshed." Also, racism and pro-peace ideas do not mix. You're either racist or pro-peace, not both. Since you seem to have an interest in China, then you should read this book: "China: Revolution and Counterrevolution" by PSL Publications. Their website is