Stephen Harper once said his Conservative Party would not “sell out” to the “almighty dollar” in exchange for silence about human rights concerns in China. But this week the government was criticized for the warm greetings it sent to the communist regime as it marked the 60th anniversary of its wresting control of the country.
Stephen Shi, a Chinese exile living in Ottawa, wrote to MPs and media this week decrying what he called Canadian politicians' “continuous kow-towing to the communist murderers.” He noted an event in Ottawa marking the anniversary in which the Chinese ambassador was joined by several Canadian politicians, including local Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Gordon O'Connor.
Mr. Shi was sentenced to six years in a Chinese prison and labelled “anti-revolutionary” in 1990 after he wrote letters to the Chinese regime criticizing its massacre of pro-democracy students in Bejing the previous year. He later fled to Canada because he said he could live here “without fear of being imprisoned for expressing my views.”
“China has a glorious 5,000-year history, not 60 years,” Shi wrote to the MPs this week. “The Communist regime does not represent China. The Communist history is not China’s history. Couldn’t those few Canadian politicians figure it out?”
Shi must not have been pleased to read the comments by Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, who was quoted in Chinese media on the eve of the Oct. 1 anniversary events in China.
"I would like to warmly congratulate the people of China on the eve of this 60th anniversary,” Cannon was quoted in the regime's official mouthpiece, Xinhua. “Tomorrow is a truly historic day, and our Chinese friends have reason to be proud of their achievements.”
After gaining a reputation as advocates for Chinese human rights and democracy, the Conservatives have recently left Chinese rights activists confused about their stance.
Some, like Mr. Shi, believe the Canadian government has been swayed by a pro-regime lobby that is in fact a front for the regime.
“While they believe that they are pleasing the Chinese voters, they are not,” Shi said of the politicians. “The Chinese Communist Party front organizations who claim to be representing the Chinese community but are really the voice of the Chinese Embassy do not represent me, nor the majority of Chinese Canadians who came to Canada for freedom.
But not everyone in the Conservative caucus has gone quiet on Chinese human rights.
One is Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who has continued to publicly champion human rights issues while Conservative ministers have made numerous trips to China.
Kenney recently spoke out in favour of a monument planned in Ottawa for victims of communist regimes. And in May he thanked a Falun Gong group in Calgary both for their cultural contributions and for “always reminding us about the victims of religious and political persecution around the world.”
At the time, Kenney told The Epoch Times: “Our government has always said that Canada should advance both our values and our interests. We obviously have strong interests in promoting trade and commerce with China but we also want to promote our values, our belief in democracy, and human freedom, and we believe that we can do both of those things.”
However, it was also Kenney's office that circulated the Xinhua news article quoting Cannon's remarks to Canadian media. The article, like the comments by Canadian officials, made no mention of Chinese peoples' suffering under six decades of communism.
The Xinhua article Kenney's office sent out speaks of friendship, noting that Canada sent grain to China in 1960 “when China was hit hard by famine.” It fails to mention that the “famine” was caused by the ruthless policies of Communist dictator Mao Zedong, who in his lust for nuclear arms shipped grain to the Soviet Union while millions of his own people died of starvation.
Mr. Shi is bothered by what he sees as Western officials' cozying up to the regime by downplaying the atrocities it has inflicted on the Chinese people.
“October 1 should be a day of mourning and remembrance, not celebration, for the tens of millions of Chinese killed, tortured, and imprisoned and for the 1.3 billion still oppressed,” he said.