Thank you, Chair. It's a great honour for me to be invited to give evidence to this committee.
I have read all the evidence of the committee's meetings—numbers three, four and five—that were sent to me by the clerk, and all this evidence was given by senior Canadian government public servants explaining to the committee how they implement the Canadian government policy towards China.
This morning, I'd like to highlight some factors in the Canada-China relationship that I was disappointed to see omitted in the earlier evidence, some assertions that I interpret differently and finally some recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to more effectively further Canada's interests in our relations with China.
First of all, as is the case in many Canadian families, Chinese, not English or French, is the language of my home. I bring this up because in my youth I read a lot of classical Chinese texts in the original. More than 40 years ago, I had the extraordinary privilege of being admitted into the history of ancient Chinese thought program in the department of philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Because of this, I was taken aback to read in the evidence given to the committee by a senior government official that the Chinese:
...place an importance on the values of collectivism and harmony, owing to a Confucian heritage. Understanding the extent to which China values unity and the needs of society at large, rather than freedom of individual choice...we just have to understand that. That's where they're coming from.
Later, this earlier witness elaborated, “Some elements of collectivism and harmony are at odds with individual rights. They're different.”
Let me point out that this assertion by our ambassador is consistent with the official propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party under General Secretary Xi Jinping. The Chinese Communist Party upholds its political legitimacy by claiming that China's traditional culture demands, in this modern age, a non-democratic single-party autocratic rule.
I could not disagree more with this interpretation, and I believe it is utterly refuted by the vibrant democracies based on respect for human rights and the rule of law existing today in Taiwan and South Korea.
The troubling question for me in terms of our policy towards China is that, if Canada accepts this idea that China values unity and the needs of society at large rather than freedom of individual choice, does that mean, for example, that Canada will stand idly by in the face of the horrendous and massive program of cultural genocide against the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China who are confined, as we know, to the so-called re-education camps where they're not permitted to practise their religion at any time over their years of incarceration? The previous witness did not know how many Uighurs are incarcerated, but I can tell you that the U.S. State Department says three million, at least a million. The total population of Uighurs in China is about 10 million.
The other thing, with regard to a response we're not making, is that Canada has put the names of officials from Sudan, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia on our Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act's Magnitsky list, but in sharp contrast, no Chinese officials complicit in the persecution of Tibetans, Uighurs, Falun Gong, Chinese Christians, democracy activists and so on have been designated.
I believe this sends a strong signal to the PRC regime by omission, and the signal is that hostage diplomacy and the arbitrary imposition of trade sanctions against Canada is a policy that works. Our lack of any substantive response to this emboldens the Chinese regime to do more of this kind of thing in the future.
A second point, the evidence given by our public servants in the previous meetings of this committee repeated over and over the formula that Canada's priority in China relations is “the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as clemency for Robert Schellenberg”.
However, in response to questioning, one of the officials indicated there are two Canadians, Mr. Schellenberg and Mr. Fan Wei, whose charges on the death penalty are public and available. Why is this focus on Kovrig, Spavor and Schellenberg, three Canadians of non-Chinese origin, to the exclusion of Canadians Huseyin Celil and Fan Wei, who are not?
I judge that this would be deeply troubling to all Canadians formerly resident in the PRC prior to becoming Canadian citizens and joining our national family.
Do we also thereby tacitly accept the Chinese government's claim that persons of Chinese origin in Canada have an obligation of residual loyalty to the Chinese state regardless of their Canadian citizenship? Is this why the serious problem of Chinese state harassment of persons of PRC origin in Canada, in gross violation of the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is essentially unaddressed by our government?
Let me conclude with recommendations that I have for the Government of Canada on how to much more effectively further Canada's interests in China.
The PRC regime's flouting of the standards of international diplomacy is without question becoming more and more blatant as the years go by. Last week, the Czech government's president's office acknowledged the leak of a communication received by that office from the PRC embassy in Prague. In that communication, the PRC threatens that if the speaker of the Czech Parliament travels to Taiwan as planned, then three Czech companies with extensive business in China would be punished, including the famous Petrof piano company.
Unlike the PRC sanctions against our canola seeds—the canola seeds being falsely accused of having severe impurities in their dockage—in this Czech case there is no longer any pretense that there is any legitimate basis for the PRC's threat of trade retaliation if a nation does not comply with the PRC's political agenda. The companies menaced were simply chosen because they have ties to politically influential people in Prague.
The larger question is that Taiwan has a national government utterly in control of its territory, fully legitimated by a liberal democratic election process. Why, then, should the Czech Speaker not go there? The Czech Speaker has not gone, because a few days ago he tragically died suddenly.
Canada has lost the respect of the Chinese regime through our non-action in response to their outrages against us. It is high time for us to kick back by retaliating, especially on China's persistent illegal imports into Canada of the noxious drug fentanyl.
What are the consequences for us?
We've heard evidence that Canada's external trade with China is about 4.7% of our exports—probably less because of current situations—as compared with 75% with the United States. Most of our sales to China are of primary commodities: canola, soybeans, potash, wood and so on.
In the unlikely event that we did incur the wrath of the Chinese regime by standing for our Canadian principles and maintaining the rules-based international order and that China decided to block us further from access to their market in consequence, the consequences would be highly disruptive to certain sectors that need compensation, but I would suggest not as severe as some people who speak in support of China would make out, because these are global commodities that are saleable elsewhere.
Canada's continuing to do nothing in response to China's violations of the accepted norms of international diplomacy and trade will not, in my view, sustain the status quo in our deteriorating relations with China and will certainly not allow us to see movement in achieving the release of Celil, Spavor and Kovrig.
Let me just say one last thing. My friend Anne-Marie Brady spoke to New Zealand's parliamentary inquiry on foreign interference earlier this year. She details the Chinese Communist Party's massive scheme of enticing foreign politicians, academics and business people to promote China's agenda through political lobbying, the media and academia. Besides offering business opportunities or free trips to China by using bribery or honey traps and so on, there are also consultancies in which prominent advisers pocket up to $150,000 U.S. per annum just for being affiliated with PRC entities. As long as the foreign adviser promotes relations with China on PRC terms, the money keeps coming.
I urge that the committee look seriously at Australia's 2018 Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act. Canada needs to come to terms with Chinese money benefiting Canadian political campaigns and rewarding Canadian politicians and public servants who are seen as friends of China.
Mr. Chair, I welcome vigorous and challenging questions from members of the committee on any of these and any other topics. There are many topics that I have been unable to address in this short statement. I do regret that.