Sunday 5 July 2020

Let's not barter for the two Michaels

Recently, my friend Barbara Cook sent me a clipping from the Waterloo Regional Record of an opinion piece written by Tim Armstrong, recommending that Canada negotiate a prisoner exchange with China in which we would hand over Meng Wanzhou and they would give us two people, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.  His argument is supported by all kinds of important people, like John Manley, Alan Rock, and Eddie Goldenberg who have suddenly come forward in the last few weeks to point out that the Extradition Act provides the federal Cabinet with unfettered power over whether or not Ms. Meng can be extradited to the United States.

In the 1980s, I worked with Mr. Armstrong with regard to Ontario's position vis-à-vis the original free-trade agreement with United States.  I will not challenge his expertise on extradition law if he does not challenge mine.  I will not challenge his because I have no quarrel with his view in this regard.  When a request comes to us to extradite a person to another country it is, indeed, entirely a political decision as to whether or not we wish to place the request before one of our courts.  The court merely decides whether or not the accused person has the right to have the charge dismissed, not unlike the right of an accused in a criminal proceeding to have a charge dismissed at the end of a preliminary hearing.  If the court does not grant the accused that right, the matter goes back to the political decision-makers, once again, to decide whether or not the extradition proceeds.

When Ms Meng was arrested, the Prime Minister was asked whether or not he had prior knowledge of the event.  He indicated that he did.  I think we can assume from that that he was also given the legal opinion I have just expressed.  He had to decide which bully country he needed to appease, China or the United States.  In my view, he clearly made the right decision.  His current political problem arises from his insistence on drawing a red herring across the whole issue by saying that he believes in "the rule of law" and is merely following it.  No doubt, he wishes to shore up his reputation in that regard.

In other words, Mr. Trudeau could have told United States privately before the plane landed at Vancouver International Airport that we were not going to arrest Ms. Meng.  In retrospect, that likely would have been the wiser political decision.  But that was 2018.  This is 2020.  Why, in heaven's name, would we now give in to the world's greatest bully nation?  If we started to do that we would be starting on the road of becoming a client country to China.  And since to send her home would be an open rebuff to the United States, we could hardly go groveling to them again for help.

I am serious.  Now that Xi Jinping is President for life, China is pushing the boundaries with every country it can.  Most of the countries are smaller than they are ("Let's take over a port in Sri Lanka while they owe us some money") but now they are getting a little pushy with some countries that are almost as big as they are.  I hope everyone noticed that Chinese soldiers recently pushed twenty some Indian soldiers over cliffs to their deaths in the Himalayas.  They have placed trade sanctions on Australia because of an argument over the sensitive issue as to how the coronavirus started.  They have threatened the auto industry in Germany.  A couple of years ago, Pres. Roderigo Duterte of the Philippines indicated that he was planning to cozy up to China instead of the United States.  Recently, he changed his mind as their ships got closer and closer to his islands and sunk a Philippine fishing boat.  And don't get me started about Africa!

Like a typical bully, they are afraid to pick on somebody their own size.  The question has to be asked, since it is United States that laid the charges against their precious corporate leader, why are they transferring their anger to Canada?

There may be situations in which we can accomplish something for Canadian citizens who have been incarcerated by dictatorships.  Recently, apparently in part because of a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Trudeau, Pres.Abdul Fathab el Sisi of Egypt had a Canadian engineer, Yasser Ahmed Albaz, released from prison and sent home to Canada.  I don't know that we did anything for them in exchange.  Remember, however, that Egypt is roughly the same size or smaller than us, politically.  Once again, China is bigger and a bully.

My real anger with China coincides with anger at world media and, as a result, non-interest by the public in the fate of the Uyghurs.

Who cares about the Uygurs?  There aren't very many of them.  Most of the ones who are left still live in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in northwestern China.  They have lived there for many many millenniums, long before the Han people, who now populate the rest of China, discovered them.  China now admits to less than 13 million of them.  There are 223,000 in Kazakhstan.  In the 2016 Census, 1555 people in Canada indicated that they were Uygurs.  They are a quiet farming community which, between the tenth and sixteenth centuries, gradually became Sunni Muslims.

Right now, over a million of them are in maximum security prisons where they are being forced to abandon their culture, their language, and their religion.  The only way to successfully escape the prison is to convince their ethnic Han captors that they have completely capitulated.  The one child rule, which no longer exists in the rest of China, is being strictly enforced in Xinjiang.  There is no doubt that this is cultural genocide.  I fear that it may be the beginning of complete genocide.  And as you can see from the numbers I set out above, a complete genocide, a " final solution" if you will, can easily occur in Xinjiang province and, of course, there would then be more room for Han people to multiply.What they are doing here is not unlike what they did in Tibet.  In that case, the Dalai Lama has made the rest of the world, at least, aware.

I have yet to talk about Hong Kong.  Obviously, the new national security law fits the pattern.  Some observers who understand China better than myself are suggesting that Xi is feeling very insecure in his position and that that is why he is striking out.  I don't know.  I will say that I think that much of what China does is racist.  Why else, for instance, would they claim ownership to Taiwan, when the two countries do not share at a historical past but happen to share the same ethnic background. 

300,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong.  Many of them will want to come home to Canada, now, and there will be other people who will wish to join them.  It is very important that we do not blur the distinction between ethnic Chinese and the People's Republic of China.  Under no circumstances, should assumptions be made that put the two together.  This is extremely important, more so because of the attitude of the Chinese government and the pressure that they may wish to put on Canadian citizens of Chinese origin.  We must all be extremely vigilant and, frankly, protect these people.

Now, Barbara Cook may rue the fact that she asked for my opinion on this.  As I understand the new Hong Kong national security legislation, any individual in the world can be charged with subversion of state authority if they criticize the Hong Kong government.  Apparently, a young boy has been arrested for holding up a sign that read "Hong Kong Independence" .  Clearly, I can be grateful to Trudeau for ending Canada's extradition arrangement with Hong Kong.  Perhaps Barbara should be grateful as well.  She incited me.

Meanwhile, I am afraid that the two Michaels will have to await another day before they can come home.


  1. Excellent and insightful analysis, David

  2. After I wrote this, Carl, I started to worry about what you particularly would think. I wasn't quite accurate in my reference to Taiwan, in that there is a little bit of historical connection between the two countries. Obviously, Han people must've settled there at some point and, secondly, it was all one country between 1945 and 1949. Therefore, I appreciate your comments being positive more than those of anybody else. I hope you are doing well there.