As Canada pursues a “renewal” of its relationship with China through new trade agreements and extradition treaties, our government must ensure that human rights, especially free expression and freedom of the press, are not cast aside.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived on Parliament Hill on September 22 to continue talks with Prime Minister Trudeau, during which an agreement was signed by the two countries to begin exploratory talks on a Free Trade Agreement. Discussions of a proposed extradition treaty also continued, which provoked swift outcry in Canada after its announcement on September 13.
China is one of the worst perpetrators of crimes that silence the voices of activists, journalists, artists and others who exercise their right to freedom of expression. The country’s culture of impunity, where rights violations go unpunished, is systematic, endemic and ever growing. China has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world and is among the top ten most censored countries in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is ranked fourth worst—176th out of 179 countries—on Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
Read more about human rights in China and the implications for Canada's trade and diplomatic relations.
Chinese officials frequently object when any criticism is made of their human rights record, insisting that the country has made “tremendous and universally recognized achievements in the protection and promotion of human rights.” The advancement of human rights depends upon a free press to disperse accurate information, expose corruption and wrongdoing, and give voice to the powerless. As long as the government of China engages with impunity in broad crackdowns on dissent—kidnapping Hong Kong booksellers for publishing books critical of China, intimidating diaspora journalists in Canada, and many more appalling acts—there can be no true progress.
Tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion and Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland:
Put human rights at the heart of the Canada-China relationship.