Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate Bill C-50. I had an opportunity to speak to this bill at second reading and while it is not an issue that falls within any critic portfolio, I have held a very strong ongoing interest in Canada's relations with the People's Republic of China, particularly vis-à-vis that country's and government's atrocious record of the systematic violation of human rights.
First, I am deeply ambivalent about the accession of the PRC to the World Trade Organization. On the one hand, some have made a plausible argument for it. My colleague, the trade critic for the Alliance and member for Vancouver Island North, quoted from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to the effect that China's accession to the WTO may prove to be beneficial in encouraging democratization and respect for human rights. On the other hand, I have seen China's increased integration with free market, democratic, western economies, without a concomitant result in terms of respect for human rights or democratization of its political system. To the contrary, there has been considerable evidence presented by independent observers such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in recent years that, as the Chinese economy has become ostensibly more open, its political system has become actually more closed.
I am deeply skeptical about the entire premise of our so-called foreign policy vis-à-vis China known as constructive engagement. It seems to me that it is constructive for the Chinese communist oligarchy, which often benefits financially in a very direct personal way through its interest in state owned companies. It is beneficial for it to create a political pressure valve which can, by increasing living standards for a certain segment of the Chinese population, remove immediate political demands from parts of the Chinese political constituency.
However I do not think it is constructive for the vast majority of Chinese who continue to live under a one party, dictatorial, totalitarian regime whose entire premise is that the state and its prerogatives trump the dignity of the individual human person. We can see that this is the case. I will address the human rights situation in China in a moment.
Let me say that while I am ambivalent and skeptical about China's accession to the WTO, I support Bill C-50 because it at least provides restrictions for China's membership in the WTO vis-à-vis its bilateral trade relations with Canada. It provides certain basic trade remedy tools to private industry in Canada to address potential dumping or unfair trade practices on the part of the PRC, in particular on the part of government owned enterprise there.
For instance, I spoke with a constituent who owns a medium sized private sector manufacturing company in Calgary that produces precision machinery and equipment. He advised me that he was losing orders both here and in the United States to Chinese exports that were being sold at what he believed were prices that were below the actual raw material input costs for these precision implements. That would seem to be a prima facie case of dumping or an unfair trade practice on the part of the Chinese.
While I am a free trader in principle and do believe that rules based trade agreements based on minimizing tariffs and barriers are very important policy objectives for an export oriented country such as ours, I do think that when we are dealing with a communist system, such as that in China where the vast majority of the economy is operated by state owned enterprises and where they have no tradition of rules based trade or the rule of law itself, domestically or, I would argue, internationally, it is extremely important to have a framework for addressing unfair practices. I understand that the WTO's agreement itself with China runs over 900 pages long to ensure that the PRC government does observe free trade practices and does not engage in dumping and other unfair practices.
I further understand that the Chinese will have to amend some 400 to 500 domestic statutes in order to come into full compliance. Frankly I am skeptical about their political will or ability to do so, given that if they really do implement and adopt the spirit of the WTO, there will be tremendous transitional costs to its economy. For instance, their banking sector, which is very precarious, is overwhelmingly dominated by government owned banks, the Bank of China. If they face serious open competition by the western financial services sector, we will see major challenges to the Chinese banking system. I really do question whether or not the communist leadership will pay the price that comes along with the benefit of membership in the WTO, but we will see.
Another reason why, notwithstanding my ambivalence, I support the bill and lean toward supporting China's accession to the WTO is that its accession came concurrent with the accession of the Republic of China on Taiwan which, until quite recently, had a more important and robust trading relationship with Canada. I think that we spent so much time focusing on the PRC that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our trading relationship is quite exaggerated. We know that nearly 90% of our international trade is conducted with the United States and we have a relatively small trade with the PRC. In fact within that trade we receive, I gather, about $11 billion in imports from China annually, but our exports to China are a fraction of that. We are running an enormous trade deficit with that country, whereas we have had a long and very profitable relationship with the Republic of China or Taiwan since the early 1950s.
The Republic of China on Taiwan has, I believe, the 11th largest economy in the world. It is our eighth largest trading partner. I find it bizarre and sometimes shameful that the government treats the state of the Republic of China on Taiwan as a pariah. We will not even grant visas for their ministers to visit Canada on a personal basis let alone on an official basis. We refuse to encourage its accession even as observers to the World Health Organization or UNESCO. We will not allow high level Canadian government delegations to visit Taiwan and to improve our already strong and vigorous trade relationship.
With that responsible, independent democracy, which respects human rights, why is it that we allow Beijing to dictate our foreign policy vis-à-vis Taiwan? I have a suggestion. It may have something to do with the fact that the Prime Minister's son-in-law is chairman of the Canada-China trade council, that his son-in-law's father was the founding chairman of that entity a couple of decades ago and that one of the very few large companies in Canada with any interests in the PRC happens to be Power Corp.
There is no rational explanation for Canada's utter subservience to the foreign policy of the PRC vis-à-vis Taiwan and our refusal to speak out vigorously about human rights abuses in that regime except for the attitude of the Prime Minister which, I submit, is influenced strongly by his fairly close direct family relations and interests in the PRC.
It is not untoward to suggest that the one company with a longstanding industrial relationship in the PRC, owned by members of the prime minister's family, has an interest in maintaining, I would argue, a policy vis-à-vis Beijing which is not in the best interests of Canada and which is definitely not consistent with our historical track record as a champion of human rights and democracy.
I will now turn my remarks to that issue. Bill C-50, regrettably, does not even mention in principle the importance of China moving toward a system that recognizes democratic rights.
I will quote from Steven Mosher who is a long time expert on the human rights situation in China. Before congress last year he said “If medals were given to nations for committing human rights abuses, China would win the gold every time.
Let me detail for members some of the more recent reports on human rights abuses in that communist country perpetrated by the regime so we get a concrete sense. We often talk about human rights issues as some abstract obsession of certain academics or people on the political left. In fact millions of real people with families and real lives are today enslaved in forced labour camps in the PRC. They are denied the ability to practise their religion with freedom and impunity from state sanction. They are rounded up and imprisoned without due process and are denied the ability to choose their own local representatives. They are jailed for their political opinions or for dissenting from the official communist line.
Let me refer to information from the Cardinal Kung Foundation which observes the situation of loyal Chinese Catholics. According to the Kung Foundation, the Beijing regime's persecution of the underground Catholic church has not only been carried on for the last five decades but this persecution has recently taken on a greater degree of intensity and boldness.
For example, Father LU Genjun, 39 years old, an underground Roman Catholic priest, was arrested about two months ago shortly before Easter in Baoding, Hebei province. The statement on his arrest clearly listed Father LU Genjun's crimes as receiving theology training, being ordained a Roman Catholic priest and conducting evangelization activities. He was arrested and jailed for doing what a priest does. He is only one of thousands.
New York based Human Rights Watch, in its 2002 world report, said:
China's increasingly prominent international profile, symbolised in 2001 by its entry into the World Trade Organisation and by Beijing's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics,--
That is absurd. The report continued:
--was accompanied by tightened controls on fundamental freedoms.
Human Rights Watch tells us that China's recent strike hard anti-crime campaign has been used to crack down on political opponents of the regime. “10,000 suspected criminals were arrested in the first months of the Strike Hard campaign...and by the end of October at least 1,800 were executed and twice that number sentenced to death”, according to Human Rights Watch.
It added that moves to eradicate the Falun Gong group led to torture and imprisonment.
Police also cracked down on several other Buddhist and Taoist mystical groups, while closing hundreds of unregistered Protestant and Catholic churches.
Falun Gong continued to experience the harshest repression, with thousands of practitioners assigned to re-education through labour camps and more than 350 imprisoned, many for nothing more than printing leaflets or recruiting followers.
A report from the Far Eastern Economic Review states:
In the wake of its being awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, China is ordering one of its remote, poverty-stricken regions to commit at least 20,000 abortions by the end of this year.
This is part of China's forced abortion and mandatory sterilization program which we shamefully finance through our contributions to the United Nations fund for population activities.
ZENIT, the news organization, reported:
In the middle of the night July 10 the police took Father Liao Haiqing of Yujiang Diocese from his home and then interrupted a study-meeting of 15 other priests of the same district, arresting those present--
They were sentenced for being political opponents of the regime simply for preaching the gospel.
Amnesty International's 2001 report states:
Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who worshipped outside the official “patriotic” churches were the victims of a continuing pattern of arrests, fines and harassment. Scores arrested in recent years remained in prison or labour camps.
The report went on to point out:
In September, 24 Roman Catholics, including a priest and 20 nuns, were detained in Fujian province when police found them holding church services in a mushroom-processing factory. According to reports, Father Liu Shaozhang was so severely beaten by police during arrest that he vomited blood. Two of the nuns were allegedly released the following day after parishioners paid a large sum of money to the police; the whereabouts of the other 22 detainees remained unknown--
I could go on and on but I would suggest that my colleagues or the general public could consult the websites of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, the Cardinal Kung Foundation or any one of the organizations established by the North American refugees from China who were involved in the Tiananmen Square protest and massacre of a decade ago. That was a massacre which the PRC communist government has still not acknowledged or even apologized for and this is a country whose human rights record the Prime Minister will not deign even to comment on in a seriously negative light.
I propose that, and Human Rights Watch recommends this, as a part of China's accession to the WTO we should insist that China invite the United Nations special rapporteur on religious intolerance to return to China to assess progress toward implementation of his 1994 recommendations in that country.
The government's silence on the issue is not new. Just recently the United Nations Human Rights Commission had its annual session in Geneva. Absent, shockingly, was the United States of America which had been voted off the commission by human rights paragons, such as Syria and Libya, who sat on the commission. For 40 years the U.S. representative on the UNHRC had put forward a relevant motion each year critical of China's human rights abuses but the U.S. was not there this year.
Canada was there but we did not stand in the breach. We did not offer a motion critical of China's human rights record. While the UNHRC was condemning Israel for defending its sovereignty, a motion voted on by countries like Libya, we did not stand up to criticize the arrest of innocent Chinese for practising their religion and holding political views at variance with that of the totalitarian regime.
The current member for Mount Royal, when he was a law professor, said two years ago:
I think our indifference, sometimes clothed in the notion of neutrality, means we're coming down on the side of the victimizer.
Warren Allmand, former Liberal MP, said:
It is the Prime Minister's...single-minded approach to boosting trade that has watered down Canada's previously harder line on Chinese human rights abuses.
The Prime Minister was quoted on February 12 of last year as saying:
The press wanted me to give instructions to the Chinese. I said we have to put it into perspective a bit. You know we are 30 million. They are 1.2 billion. They want me to tell the Chinese what to do, but they don't want me to tell the premiers what to do.
It is absurd to suggest that this country, which regards itself as a paragon of human rights and democracy, should take that approach.
In closing, I will support the bill only because it does impose restrictions and ensures fair trade practices on the part of the PRC.
However I will do so with strong opposition to the government's most obsequious policy of any western government toward the totalitarian regime in China. All members in voting on this should keep in mind the millions who are in forced labour camps and whose human rights are being violated on a daily basis by that country.