Saturday, February 10, 2007

Economic relations don't trump human rights

Please don't think I'm going all soft and gooey on our illustrious leader Stephen Harper, whom I would replace in the blink of an eye with someone with some cogent policies and from a different party (any party...), but this just happens to be the second time in just a few months that I am giving him some credit for gumption.
His recent response to the Chinese government's North American envoy, He Lafei, was the correct one, I think, on the premise that economic relations do not trump human rights, and reminding them that China has more to lose from any breakdown in relations than Canada (on the grounds that we import from China nearly 5 times as much as we export there). The latter point is bluster, of course, as push would never be allowed to come to shove.
But I was more shocked than anything else at the tone the Chinese official took in his own comments the previous day. Among his quotes are the following:

  • "...we need to work harder to improve mutual trust"
  • " practical terms Canada is lagging behind in its relations with China"
  • "...people need to have confidence in the country they are going to do business with"
Rich indeed, in the light of the ongoing discussions over the disappeared Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, and China's poor record on human rights in general.
And disconcertingly reminiscent of the carping and bullying tone we are more used to hearing from the US.

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