Two articles in the Globe and Mail caught my eye:
- First, almost two weeks ago, Paul Chapin, who was a Canadian diplomat for more than 25 years and whose foreign postings included Moscow and Washington and who also served as head of the Soviet section at Foreign Affairs and director-general for international security, writes that “China has been holding a Canadian diplomat for four months, and the Canadian Prime Minister says he is “obviously concerned.” What’s obvious is that he is not … [that’s harsh, but he explains that in diplomatic terms] … We’re way overdue for Ottawa to take the steps that would free Michael Kovrig, along with Michael Spavor, a second Canadian also being held. China arrested them to muscle Canada into releasing Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is under very comfortable “house arrest” in Vancouver pending possible extradition to the United States at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice”; and
- Second, Xiao Xu reports, from Vancouver, that “Canada has raised “serious questions” with the Hong Kong government over the territory’s plan to enter an extradition agreement with Beijing, opening the door for the first time for residents to be sent to China for trial … [and] … The plan has caused alarm among Canadians with ties to Hong Kong, and among other countries, that it would give the Chinese government easier access to people it may wish to imprison, despite assurances it would not apply to political crimes.“
There is more on the extradition treaty, which is facing stiff opposition from business groups in Hong Kong, here.
The Globe and Mail says that “The proposed changes … [to Hong Kong’s extradition procedures] … announced in February and expected to be enacted later this year, would grant the city’s chief executive the right to order suspects extradited to jurisdictions not covered by existing arrangements, including mainland China, on a case-by-case basis. The agreement would cover charges such as murder, sex crimes, kidnapping and drug offences.” The agreement is not just with mainland China, which has expressed frustration that there is no legal way for criminals who flee to Hong Kong to be returned to China, it also applies to Taiwan and some other countries with which Hong Kong does not have extradition treaties.
Mr Chapin says that “Justin Trudeau’s argument that Canada has to respect the rule of law carries no weight with the autocratic one-party regime which rules China. In fact, it is taken as a sign of the weakness that typically leads to submission. If Canada doesn’t take some real action, expect a show trial in which Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are found guilty of spying, sentenced to death and, if there comes a moment when the Chinese deem it in their interest, executed.” Then he offers a (risky, in my opinion) three-stage solution which he says is “a strategy drawn from multiple successes in dealing with another totalitarian state which also used bullying tactics against foreign adversaries, the long-gone and unlamented Soviet Union:
- For starters,” he says, “Canada must clarify the detainees’ status. Mr. Kovrig is not being treated as a diplomat by either China or Canada, but he is one – he is technically on “leave of absence” from the Department of Foreign Affairs. That means he’s still an employee of the Canadian government, subject to reinstatement at any time. Reinstating him wouldn’t grant him diplomatic immunity in China because he’s not accredited there like he once was, but the Chinese will understand the stakes have risen if he regains that status; then
- Ottawa must reciprocate. The Chinese have arrested one of our diplomats – so we should arrest two or more of theirs under espionage charges. Those Chinese would remain in detention for as long as the Canadians do; and
- The next step would be to escalate the situation. If the prisoners aren’t exchanged soon, expel every Chinese official in Canada known or suspected to be engaged in espionage. For good measure, add all those engaged in “influence activities” – CSIS knows who they are.“
I am not as confident as Mr Chapin that China will respond as he
thinks hopes. But it is, at least, a strategy which seems to be a lot more than whatever Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have right now.
The Hong Kong issue adds to the already rising tensions that Canadians who want and need to do business in China are feeling.
Mr Chapin’s solution is diplomatic and proven, albeit with a different country. Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland appear to be adrift … oblivious to the dangers and to the (few) options available. This is not the time for funny socks or stupid t-shirts, Canadians need and deserve grownups in our high political offices. Instead, we have a pair of lightweights who have alienated our traditional allies with their incessant virtue signalling and dramatically soured relations with rising great powers like China and India. They are making life more difficult and even deadly dangerous for Canadians.