STEVEN CHASESENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
An alliance of legislators from nearly 20 countries including Canada is meeting in Rome ahead of the Group of 20 summit to press world leaders to toughen their approach to China.
The coalition of more than 200 parliamentarians from both the West and Japan, known as the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), was formed in June of 2020 as Beijing introduced a draconian law that critics say effectively criminalized dissent in Hong Kong.
Legislators, including Garnett Genuis, a Canadian MP with the Conservative Party, will be meeting in Rome on Friday with allies including Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu, former Hong Kong legislator Nathan Law, now in political exile, and Sikyong Penpa Tsering, leader of the Central Tibetan Administration, also known as the Tibetan government in exile. China took control of Tibet in 1950. Also present is Uyghur activist Rahima Mahmut.
That’s one day ahead of the G20 summit. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be representing Canada at the G20.
This “counter-meeting,” as IPAC organizers call it, comes during a shift in relations between the West and China, where countries are treating the Chinese Communist Party as more of a rival and less of a partner because of the increasingly aggressive leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under his rule, China has forcefully detained many Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in what it called “vocational education and training centres.” It has quashed democratic and opposition movement in the former British colony of Hong Kong, suppressed efforts to probe the origins of COVID-19 and has not ruled out the use of force to take over the island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province.
Iain Duncan Smith, who once served as leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, where he is an MP, said in a statement that IPAC will be trying to draw attention to “the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic onslaught on democracy, human rights and the rule of law” and to “remind democratic states of their responsibility to safeguard the international rules based order – rules that we have helped to shape and are now under threat from Beijing.”
Mr. Genuis cautioned against a return to “business-as-usual” with China now that Beijing has handed over Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians held against their will for more than 1,000 days in what Ottawa has called a case of “hostage diplomacy.” The two men were taken into custody after Canada arrested a Chinese tech executive based on an extradition request from the United States.
He noted there are many more Canadians still detained in China, including Uyghur activist Huseyin Celil, who was arrested during a family trip to Uzbekistan in 2006 and handed over to the Chinese in 2007. Mr. Celil was later convicted of terrorism charges in a Chinese trial that Canada denounced.
“It’s excellent that the two Michaels are home but there are many more Canadians stuck there,” Mr. Genuis said. “When the government of China practises this arbitrary detention of foreigners, that should tell us something about the way that government operates.”
Some of Canada’s allies have already taken steps to counter Beijing’s military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Follow Steven Chase on Twitter: @stevenchase