Trudeau Says China Has Escalated Its 'Coercive Diplomacy' Toward Canada, Allies

Trudeau Says China Has Escalated Its 'Coercive Diplomacy' Toward Canada, Allies
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 13, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Omid Ghoreishi

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there’s been a shift in Beijing’s “coercive diplomacy,” and Canada and its allies are all experiencing similar kinds of pressure from China.

“We have seen over the past many years various countries using agents and various pressure tactics on local media outlets in Canada … and different diaspora communities,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Nov. 13.

“At the same time, however, we’ve seen a shift in the approach that China is taking on its more coercive diplomacy."

Trudeau made the remarks in response to a question about a statement by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that Beijing uses undercover officials and proxies in Canada to silence members of the diaspora critical of the Chinese regime. The statement, obtained by the Globe and Mail, said countries such as China use trusted agents “to assist them in conducting various forms of threat activities.”

Trudeau said Beijing's more aggressive behaviour can be observed in the “arbitrary detention” of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, its “significant hardened posture” when questioned about its human rights record, and the crackdown in Hong Kong and on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

“We’ve seen China responding more forcefully, which is one of the reasons why Canada has worked very closely with like-minded allies around the world, who are all experiencing various degrees of the same kinds of pressures, to really hold a common front,” he said.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne condemned China for forcing the removal of four pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislature, saying the move is a “further assault on Hong Kong’s high degree of freedoms.”

“We are deeply disappointed that China has chosen to break its international obligations. Canada will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong,” Champagne said.

On the same day, Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t give in to Beijing’s pressure on the case of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive arrested in Canada on a U.S. extradition request. China has taken an increasingly hostile attitude toward Canada following Meng's arrest, including arresting Kovrig and Spavor, giving death sentences to Canadians charged with drug-related crimes, and blocking Canadian agricultural imports.

“China continues to think that they can just put enough pressure on us and we will … give in, but that’s exactly the opposite of our position,” Trudeau said.

During his Nov. 13 press conference, Trudeau was asked whether he’s considering using a foreign agents registry as part of the measures to deal with Beijing’s use of agents in Canada, as reported by CSIS.  Currently the United States and Australia have legislated requirements for individuals to register when working as an agent of a foreign entity. Trudeau didn’t address the question in his response.

With a file from Reuters.
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