Friday, June 19, 2020

LILLEY: Trudeau's weakness leaves two Michaels in dire straits

LILLEY: Trudeau's weakness leaves two Michaels in dire strits

It was 558 days ago that China’s government kidnapped two Canadian citizens, essentially holding them ransom over Canada’s detention of a Chinese tech executive. Now, after a year and a half, they have finally been charged with spying.

Under a real justice system, and make no mistake that China does not have a real justice system, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor would have been freed for spending so long in jail without even facing charges. China’s system, though, is built on intimidation, oppression and keeping the Communist Party in power.

So instead of being afforded the same kind of rights that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been afforded — the right to appeal, being freed on bail, living in a Vancouver mansion — Kovrig and Spavor have been kept in horrible conditions. Interrogation for hours on end, living conditions where the lights are never turned off — even for sleeping, eyeglasses taken away.

Make no mistake, these men have been tortured by China and the Canadian government has not been able to stop it.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the decision and the next step taken by the Chinese in the case of the two Michaels,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

That’s great. That and $2 will get you a coffee at Timmy’s. Trudeau was asked what more he could do to free the men.

“Obviously, on top of the public positioning that we’re always very firm on, there is also plenty of action behind the scenes in very direct and firm ways,” Trudeau said.

He claims it is obvious. Most would beg to disagree.

Canadians would be hard pressed to see the public outcry from the Trudeau government over the kidnapping of two citizens. While China has been belligerent over the detention of Meng on an extradition warrant, we have been muted over two actual kidnappings.

Meanwhile, China has waged economic warfare against Canada on products ranging from lumber to canola, beef to soy. Yet China’s Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu took to the pages of the Toronto Star to claim the only problem between our two countries is meddling from the Americans.

That may play well to the Star’s anti-American audience but it doesn’t hold up to reality or scrutiny.

“We need a change in our relationship with China,” former Liberal MP Dan McTeague told me Friday.

McTeague was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2006 and charged with dealing with Canadians in need of assistance overseas, Canadians like Kovrig and Spavor.

“It’s clear that human rights for their own people — Uighurs in camps, democracy in Hong Kong — it’s really an indication of their ability to abuse human rights doesn’t end with their own citizens, it extends to ours, the two Michaels,” McTeague said.

He called for a stronger message to be sent on human rights and for Canadians and the Canadian government to stop supporting China economically.

“Our days of depending on cheap products from China have to be over,” McTeague said.

Foreign affairs analyst Shuvaloy Majumdar spent years working for John Baird when he was foreign affairs minister and now works with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He says the Trudeau government needs to change tactics.

“What they have been doing has not worked, in fact it has made it worse,” Majumdar said. “You need to earn the respect of China if you are going to be taken seriously.”

Majumdar said that the Trudeau government has waffled on major issues between the two counties.

“We are indecisive about the top issues between us,” Majumdar said.

From taking a weak stance on the two Michaels to refusing to make a decision or Huawei being part of 5G or retaliate in the trade war, the Trudeau government has shown China that Canada is weak right now.

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