Forum: Human Rights and Canada-China Relations
OTTAWA—Recent developments in Canada’s relations with China was the topic of a forum hosted Monday by Green party leader Elizabeth May and Rev. Majed El Shafie, president and founder of Toronto-based One Free World International.
The takeover of Nexen by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was mentioned by many on the panel, which included representatives from each federal party except the Bloc Quebecois, as well as speakers from other groups.
In early December 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave the go-ahead for CNOOC, a state-owned company controlled by China’s communist government, to buy Nexen, a Calgary-based oil and gas company, citing the need for foreign investment to boost Canada’s economy.
The sale was not well-received by many Canadians as no foreign government had ever been given access to one of Canada’s natural resources before, and some feared that the agreement has given the company the legal power to sue Canada for monetary losses.
Rev. El Shafie, a long-time human rights advocate, said economics and finance seem to trump human rights considerations every time.
“I am not against international trade with China,” he said, referring to the CNOOC buyout, “but I want to use international trade as a tool to promote freedom of religion, freedom, and democracy. I refuse to believe that everything is made in China including our Canadian principles and values. I refuse to believe that.”
May said she’s even more concerned about the pending Canada China Investment Treaty (FIPA) than the CNOOC takeover of Nexen.
“[It gives] a foreign corporation more rights to complain if the law changes or they make less profit.”
She said it is “a particularly badly worded treaty,” adding that she hopes it won’t be ratified as it locks Canada in to the agreement for 31 years.
CNOOC Persecution of Falun Gong Employees
Shawn Li, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, talked about the ongoing persecution in China of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Li explained how CNOOC had persecuted 77 practitioners of Falun Gong when they were employees of the company.
“CNOOC’s security forces and management directly assisted the Party and local police to arrest, detain, and forcibly brainwash their employees who practised Falun Gong,” he said.
“Canadians should be insisting that CNOOC stop the persecution of Falun Gong within all its companies; that all 610 offices in all CNOOC companies be dismantled; that CNOOC admit openly, publicly, and in full detail its past human rights violations; and that CNOOC compensate fully all its victims for the harm that all CNOOC companies have inflicted on Falun Gong practitioners.”
After describing how Chinese authorities order the surgical removal of vital organs from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, a process in which the person dies, Li said, “CNOOC is directly participating in these shocking crimes against humanity. Such practices would be unthinkable for any Canadian employer.”
Liberal MP Mark Eyking said there should have been a parliamentary trade committee and a foreign affairs committee investigation of CNOOC’s employment practices regarding discrimination and persecution of Falun Gong employees.
Eyking described Nexen as a good company that helped in Yemen with democracy and rights for women, a stance that is seen to be in direct opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.
“So here you have two kinds of companies coming together and that’s a concern—who’s going to lead that company,” he said.
MP Wayne Marston, the NDP’s human rights critic, said that while it’s always been important for parliamentarians to keep informed on the issues, the CNOOC deal amplifies that.
“It’s even that much more critical now that China has more power within Canadian borders than we’ve ever seen before,” he said, adding that the Canada/China FIPA is also a concern.
“Talking about the FIPA, there’s no labour side agreements like you see in most free trade agreements, there’s no departmental side agreements, no human rights impact assessment, nothing.”
Tibetans, Uyghurs Mistreated
Sheng Xue, president of the Federation for a Democratic China, described how the Chinese communist regime tried to coerce workers and students in Canada into collecting information about pro-democracy activities on Tibetans and fellow Chinese living in Canada.
“This is the regime that we are trading with, we are dealing with, that we are welcoming to Canada and [that] influences our lifestyle here,” she said.
Kunsang Tanzin, president of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario, described how his country was invaded by China and how the systematic oppression and discrimination, famine, torture, and violence has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans.
He went on to say that 110 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to demand basic freedoms worthy of human beings. “This level of human sacrifice seeking freedom is unprecedented in history,” he said.
Kayum Masimov, president of the Uyghur Society of Canada, talked about the 20 million Uyghurs in China and how they are marginalized and discriminated against.
“[China] is becoming a power but not in one thing—moral authority. This state does not respect its own citizens,” he said.
Conservative MP John Weston had some positive things to say about the Conservative government in relation to China.
He lauded Harper for refusing to attend the Beijing Olympics in 2008; for being the first Canadian prime minister to meet with the Dalai Lama and awarding him Canadian citizenship; for establishing the Freedom of Religion Office; and for the government’s recent decision to end financial aid to China.