Thursday, October 20, 2016

‘Stand Up to China on Rights,’ Jan Wong Tells Trudeau

‘Stand Up to China on Rights,’ Jan Wong Tells Trudeau

Personal popularity, family name give PM chance to push Beijing on rights and trade, says journalist.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 13 Oct 2016 | TheTyee.ca
Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s reader-funder Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. 

She suffered on work farms during China's cultural revolution and was eyewitness to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Now, journalist and author Jan Wong says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must show some backbone if he truly wants to influence Beijing on human rights.
Trudeau is “fresh-faced” and popular with a massive social media following, she said, and the Chinese government wants to be seen as his chum.
Trudeau is also popular because his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, strengthened relations with China at time when most Western nations wouldn’t recognize the country’s government.
Wong noted that Premier Li Keqiang held an informal dinner for Trudeau when the prime minister visited China in September. The Chinese government never arranges such dinners, she said, and it signalled that Trudeau had won a level of affection unmatched by any other world leader, she said.
Chinese reporters also clamoured to get selfies with Trudeau during his trip, something Wong said is “not normal.”
His pedigree and special position make Trudeau the world leader most able to achieve change in China with the least political risk.
But Wong said Trudeau is not using his leverage effectively.
“I believe he has the history behind him, I believe he has his popularity and I think he can do it,” Wong said. “But I don't know if he knows. I don't know if he understands.”
Canadian governments have expressed concern over human rights in China, but been vague about their efforts to push for change.
During his China visit, Trudeau said he encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to protect human rights and free expression, but offered no details of the conversation.
Critics have accused Canada of having a “servile” relationship with China and failing to understand the country.
In June, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion was criticized for standing by silently as China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused a Canadian reporter of arrogance and anti-China prejudice when she asked about human rights concerns and territorial disputes with its neighbours. The following day, Trudeau said he and Dion expressed “dissatisfaction” with Wang and the Chinese ambassador over the incident.
Wong said there is no reason to walk on eggshells around China in the interest of trade. Or to follow the approach of the former Conservative government, which cast a nine-year chill on relations with China.
China is not monolithic, Wong said, and while there are “bullies” like Wang, there are also millions of people in the country ashamed by his actions that day.
In fact, she said, a more outspoken and principled stance from Trudeau could lead to better deals for Canada.
“I think the Chinese actually respect people who speak up,” Wong said. “And they don't respect people who grovel.”
The litmus test for the Liberal government on China's human rights issues is if it gets results, Wong said. If it does not, Wong said, the government isn't doing enough.
At this moment in history Trudeau has a real chance to make a difference, and he must be assertive and seize it or “we'll be standing on the sidelines looking semi-pathetic cause we're not very big and we won't have a leadership role when it comes to relations with China,” Wong said.
“Right now Trudeau has moral authority, he should not squander it.”  [Tyee]