Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) statement regarding to the recent remarks of the Canadian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
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October 13, 2021
URAP is deeply concerned by Ambassador Dominic Barton’s short-sighted statement regarding his vision of China as an opportunity to be seized.
In a National Post report earlier this week, Ambassador Barton was quoted promoting a continued and expanded business relationship with China. His statement echoed the Chinese government’s position of focusing on business and trade while sidestepping thornier issues, the list of which is expansive. For the Chinese state, this includes hostage-taking, intellectual theft, infiltration and influence operations in Canada, the continued crackdown in Hong Kong, global exportation of its authoritarian model of government and the ongoing atrocities and crimes related to the Uyghur genocide (use of slave labour, mass internment of Uyghurs in concentration camps, enforced surveillance and sterilization, family separation, etc.).
Ambassador Barton stated that “It’s critical that Canadian firms seize opportunities where they exist and take advantage of the continuing economic rise of Asia and China,” adding that “Regardless of one’s outlook on it, China really cannot be ignored … Where trade is concerned, our companies need to engage in support of our economic interest while being true to our values.”
The Ambassador’s comment has come to light at a crucial time, as the US and other allies, concerned by the shared threat China poses to long-term global peace, security and the system of democratic values, await the Ggovernment of Canada’s long-delayed China policy update.
Rather than reflecting the Canadian public view that is in line with view of our allies’, Dominic Barton’s troubling statement largely coincides with his Chinese counterpart Cong Peiwu’s talking points. Summing up the two-fold increase in trade between Canada and China over the past year alone, Cong Peiwu noted that “China-Canada trade co-operation…continues to grow closer and deeper.”
After securing the release of Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou, China is clearly signaling to Canada that it expects it to continue the current trade relationship as-is, while ignoring its allies and allowing all other crucial matters to be sidelined.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Parliament unanimously declared the crimes committed by China against Uyghurs and other Turkic groups to be Genocide, with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs recommending that the government of Canada “enhance its import control mechanisms to ensure products made with forced labour are not entering the Canadian market.” At the same time, the Canadian public’s view of China has reached a historic low point, with Canadians seeking a hardened attitude towards the Chinese state, while expressing disapproval of deepening economic ties with Beijing.
Despite this growing opposition in Canada, China is attempting to replicate its sinister “divide and conquer” diplomatic tactic by leaning on the carrot of “seizing opportunities and bolstering the trade relationship” to open further cracks in Canada’s relationship with its “Five Eyes” and other Western allies. Bullying Canada will only grow easier if it willingly continues to distance itself from its traditional allies.
“In spite of the risks associated with this ominous possibility, the Ambassador’s China statements hint at continuing the business-as-usual approach responsible for Canada finding itself in its current precarious diplomatic situation,” said Mehmet Tohti, executive director of URAP. “Unfortunately, Ottawa’s top diplomat in China is content-copying pro-China lobby groups’ talking points, which undermine Canada’s national interest by prioritizing the greed of corporate elites.”
Uyghur Rights Advocacy project