Robyn Urback, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “Earlier this week, when he was asked about his country’s systematic persecution of its Muslim minorities, China’s ambassador to Canada told a room full of security experts in Ottawa a brazen lie … [he said that] … “There’s nothing like concentration camps in China or particularly in the Xinjiang autonomous region.”” China’s Ambassador Cong Peiwu was speaking about the concentration camps in China, particularly in the Xinjiang region during a panel discussion organized by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. He “called reports to the contrary “misleading” and “fake news.”” That’s pretty standard stuff for Chinese diplomats. In fact, it’s not uncommon for any diplomat, even Canadian ones, to deny proven facts that might embarrass the governments they serve. It was ever thus.
“The “vocational training centres,” he explained, were set up as a response to terrorist incidents. “That’s why the government had to take preventative measures when it comes to counterterrorism,” he added, parroting Beijing’s flaccid explanation for why it has detained, according to some estimates, as many as 1.5 million people.” There are masses of documentary evidence that proves that Ambassador Cong lied and Ms Urback is somewhat dismayed. She noted that: “to hear China’s ambassador to Canada try to portray his country’s deliberate, meticulous, ruthless crackdown on ethnic minorities as the equivalent of sending a speeding truck driver to remedial driving school – especially while speaking in front of an audience that absolutely knows better – was patently absurd. The expression most people would use in this situation is “pissing on your leg and telling you it’s raining,” but it seems in this case Mr. Cong was trying to convince the audience they weren’t even getting wet.” But that’s understandable, in my opinion; even so, I share Robyn Urback’s concern that “it’s bizarre to think a room full of Canadians would sit politely, and later clap obediently, as a representative from China denies the violence and oppression that we know is going on in Xinjiang. Indeed, there’s an uncomfortable metaphor in there about how we – in Canada and elsewhere in the world – generally react to news of the persecution of minority populations abroad.“
It’s important to note that “to the panel moderator’s credit, he did push back against Mr. Cong’s claims.” But, surely, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute knew that Ambassador Cong was going to toe the party line. What was the point of inviting him to tell lies? The answer, I guess, is that same one used by TV network news analyses programmes: to appear, at least, to be “fair and balanced.” That’s the sort of logic that says that one invites a neo-Nazi to participate in a discussion of antisemitism.
Ms Urback offers a couple of useful suggestions:
- First, she says, “even if just in a small, perhaps negligible way, individuals can take a stand against China’s persecution of minority populations by, for example, refusing to listen to those complicit in China’s human-rights abuses. That happened at a business forum at the University of British Columbia last year, when two representatives of companies implicated in human-rights abuses were dropped from the event’s agenda;” and
- Second, “We can also choose not to buy products with ties to forced Uyghur labour. According to a recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, China has transferred some 80,000 Uyghurs to factories “under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour.” The report goes on to implicate companies such as Nike, Microsoft, Sony and Bombardier, all of which have said they are investigating the allegations.“
She notes that “These individual actions may seem like meaningless gestures relative to a massive operation that has seen so many people unjustly detained. And to a certain extent, they are. But the very least Canadians can do, especially in the absence of formal government action, is continue to pay attention and try not to be so damn polite. That means supporting Uyghurs living in Canada, spending our consumer dollars ethically and calling out China’s ambassador to Canada when he peddles his ridiculous lies.” Bingo! Good points and I recommend them all. I, personally, will try to do more to make sure I do not buy products and services made by forced labour. I may have to spend a bit of time doing research; I may have to spend a few dollars more; I will try harder.
Justin Trudeau should try harder, too … maybe he should start by: