Canada, UK Agree to Cooperate on Defending Human Rights, Including in China and Burma

March 5, 2021 Updated: March 6, 2021

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau and his UK counterpart Dominic Raab agreed that the two countries should advance cooperation on a number of human rights issues, including in China and Burma, also known as Myanmar.

According to a statement, Garneau had expressed Canada’s appreciation for the UK’s support for the two Canadians citizens—Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor—who have been arbitrarily detained by Chinese authorities for more than two years.

He said the men “remain an absolute priority,” and that Canada will continue to call for their immediate release.

The “two Michaels” were detained in 2018, following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei Technologies’ founder Ren Zhengfei and the telecom company’s chief financial officer. Earlier in the year, Meng was arrested at a Vancouver airport at a U.S. request for her extradition.

Meng and her company were accused of using a Hong Kong shell company, Skycom, to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. She faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC and other financial institutions about her company’s business dealings in Iran.

Garneau also thanked the UK for supporting Canada’s launching of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention last month. The declaration aims to protect Canadians and citizens of all countries from the practice of arbitrary detention in “State-to-State Relations.”

The ministers also vowed to continue speaking out about human rights issues in China, such as the crackdown on Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. These ethnic minorities have been subjected to “mass arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture, forced sterilization, and sexual violence” under the draconian rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

The ministers agreed that China should allow an international investigation, with independent experts, into the alleged genocide in Xinjiang.

On the recent human rights crisis in Burma, the ministers reaffirmed last month’s statement released by Canada and its G7 allies, in which the countries strongly condemned the “violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces against peaceful protestors.”

They also noted the call for the Tatmadaw, Burma’s military, to immediately and unconditionally release arbitrarily detention of Burma’s top leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.