Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the tragic events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square to present to the House an update of the government's continuing efforts to engage Chinese leaders on these issues.
Our long term relations with China are based on interlocking pillars: economic partnership, peace and security, sustainable development, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. With regard to economic partnership, systematic and wide ranging contact leads to calls for greater openness and freedom. Trade reduces isolationism. Trade also expands the scope of international law and generates the growth required to sustain social change and development. A society that depends little on trade and international investment is not open to the inflow of ideas and values.
My recent meetings with regional leaders in China reviewed a sensitivity to the need for rule of law and a clear, fair, transparent, legal and regulatory framework. While there was a recognition that China had a long way to go, there was also serious intent.
Respect for human rights and the rule of law in China are essential Canadian objectives. On the bilateral front, Canada is developing a constructive dialogue on human rights issues. Recently bilateral dialogue at the official level was held in Beijing and we are assisting China in reform of its legal and judicial structures.
Multilaterally we expressed concern about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. Canada uses every opportunity to discuss our concerns with the Chinese government.
Good governance and the rule of law were major themes of the recent visit to Canada of the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Qiao Shi. Mr. Qiao and his delegation met many of the people embodying the rule of law in Canada and held in depth discussions with them.
The Chinese delegation was quite interested in the workings of Canada's Parliament and legal systems. It is our hope we can build on this to assist China in creating an environment that is more respectful to the rule of law.
My recent trade mission to China was also an excellent example of our government's approach toward China. While I helped Canadian firms meet face to face with key decision makers in booming regional markets, I also used this trip to raise human rights issues with Chinese officials in Beijing.
For the first time we received assurance from Chinese officials that the 100,000 Canadians in Hong Kong can remain permanent residents there after 1997 and continue to receive Canadian consular protection.
I also told Chinese officials that China's plans to install a temporary legislative counsel in Hong Kong is damaging the competence of the Hong Kong people as well as the international community.
In meetings with foreign affairs minister Qian Qichen, I pressed the issue of human rights and the treatment of dissidents in China. I also met with the sister of imprisoned dissident Wei Jing Shang to discuss this case while she was in Canada.
As I pointed out to the Chinese authorities on my recent trip, I agree there have been significant human rights improvements in the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese since 1989. Individuals now have a greater freedom of mobility within China. Food rationing has disappeared and people can seek their own employment.
However, this does not excuse the fact that human rights leaders and pro democracy activists continue to receive swift and harsh punishment. Let me point out today that I disagree with those who
argue democracy is not appropriate in Asia because it is alien to Asian values such as Confucianism.
The ruling class always elaborates this in its own self-interest. It manipulates Confucianism to support its own cause. As far as I am concerned, democracy and freedom of thought are well entrenched in Confucian thought.
We will continue to point out to the Chinese government through both bilateral and multilateral channels that it still does not meet the basic requirements necessary to protect human rights.
At the same time, we will continue assisting the Chinese in specific areas such as trade, regional security and improved bilateral projects to help create an environment in China that in the end respects basic human rights.