John Ivison: Useful idiots of the world unite - and they have, with 'Free Meng' event
To present, as the Canadian Peace Congress does, Meng Wanzhou’s detention as 'an unprovoked kidnapping' is to take adolescent gullibility to dangerous levels
Nov 23, 2020 •
The etymology of the phrase “useful idiot” is debated. Some people suggest it was coined by Lenin. Others credit Stalin, who used it to describe the confused and misguided American sympathizers who aided the Soviet agenda.
It came to mind when reading about a virtual event being held Tuesday in anticipation of the second anniversary of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive being detained in Vancouver, pending extradition to the United States.
The “Free Meng” event is being hosted by a group of left-wing organizations, including the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, the Canadian Peace Congress and the Hamilton Coalition to Stop War.
Speakers include NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manly.
Fair enough, you may say. If the peaceniks want to spend their time campaigning on behalf of a Chinese billionaire who flits between multi-million dollar mansions in Vancouver, that’s their affair.
Yet there is no mention anywhere in the publicity material of Michael Kovrig or Michael Spavor, the two Canadians who were detained by Chinese authorities nine days after Meng was arrested in Vancouver.
Ashton has not only agreed to participate in the event, she has sponsored a petition in the House of Commons that calls for Meng’s immediate release; urges the government to “protect Canadian jobs” by allowing Huawei to participate in the roll-out of 5G in Canada, and encourages a foreign policy review to develop an “independent” foreign policy on China.
Yves Engler, a fellow of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, said he is sympathetic to the plight of the two Michaels. “But who began the process? Hostage diplomacy is a terrible idea but who started it?” he said.
Meng’s detention “upholds unilateral and illegal U.S. sanctions” against Iran, he said.
That’s not true.
U.S. authorities are seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges, alleging she lied to HSBC as part of a scheme to obtain financing, thereby putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions in Iran.
However, when B.C. Supreme Court judge Heather Holmes ruled that Meng can be sent to the U.S. to be prosecuted, she did so because she deemed her crime, as alleged by the U.S., is also a crime in Canada. The essence of the alleged crime was not violating U.S. sanctions but deceiving a bank to obtain financial services.
On the petition’s second demand, Engler defended the call to allow Huawei to be involved in Canada’s 5G network. “We have real concerns about surveillance…The Chinese government has its own repressive spying and intelligence apparatus. But it doesn’t come close to the power of the NSA (America’s National Security Agency) or the Five Eyes (the intelligence alliance comprising Canada, the U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand). Canadians should be more concerned about the NSA in Canada than the Chinese government,” he said. “I don’t think that China is a threat to most Canadians.”
While it is true that no Huawei code or hardware has been linked definitively to the Chinese state, the company is beholden to the Communist Party’s interests and instruction. Security experts believe that Huawei receives contracts from the Chinese military to develop dual use communications technology and that the threat is legitimate.
A generous interpretation is that Engler, Manly and Ashton are well-intentioned idealists who qualify for Stalin’s (or Lenin’s) depiction.Engler admitted he has never been to China, where surveillance has been elevated to an art-form.
We can probably all agree that we do not welcome a cold war with the Chinese, far less anything warmer.
But to present, as the Canadian Peace Congress does, Meng’s detention as “an unprovoked kidnapping,” or Canada’s participation in naval operations in east Asia as an attempt to “provoke and encircle the PRC,” is to take adolescent gullibility to dangerous levels.
Ashton can have no excuses. She has been an MP for 12 years and run for her party’s leadership twice.
Does she agree with the Communist Party’s English language mouthpiece, the Global Times, that Canada has surrendered its judicial and diplomatic independence to the U.S.?
I would have asked her, if she had returned calls seeking comment.
A far less benign but more considered view of China emerged from last weekend’s Halifax Security Forum, which summarized the opinions of 250 experts in a handbook for delegates. The forum concluded that modern-day China has become the most powerful authoritarian state in history and a major challenger to the liberal world. The consensus is that China’s ambitions will not stop at its borders and that it intends to undermine democracies around the world – in particular in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which “now hang precariously in the balance.”
Even if the radical left is able to discount what is going on in Hong Kong and the South China Sea, how can it overlook the oppression in Xinjiang that all human rights organizations say is intensifying?
The explanation appears to be a reflexive contempt and loathing toward the United States that excuses any and all atrocities by other nations.This, after all, is the same Niki Ashton who tweeted #HandsOff Venezuela last year, in support of the despicable Nicolas Maduro regime. The illegitimate president must have been gratified that the world is so packed with useful idiots.