Ottawa’s despicable display in China

Terry Glavin on the death of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and Canada’s efforts to wine and dine the prisoner’s tormentors

A screen grab of the Governor General of Canada's website on Friday morning

A screen grab of the Governor General of Canada’s website on Friday morning

It would be hard to imagine a more obscene display of Canada’s slavish relationship with China’s depraved Communist Party regime: The very moment imprisoned democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died under heavy guard on a hospital bed in the northeast city of Shenyang on Thursday, a beaming Governor General David Johnston was posing for photographs at the opulent Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, shaking hands with Chinese tyrant Xi Jinping, Liu’s jailer, and tormentor.

It was all so very chummy.

READ MORE: China is no friend to Canada

The 61-year-old Liu, known worldwide as China’s Nelson Mandela, was in the eighth year of an 11-year sentence for having signed a manifesto pleading for free speech, the rule of law and a multi-party democracy. Liu’s liver cancer had oddly gone undetected in his monthly “checkups” at the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning until May 31, when effective treatment was too late. Liu was far and away the best known among China’s thousands of prisoners of conscience. He had been slipping towards death for weeks.

The European Union and the U.S. State Department had tabled humanitarian appeals with President Xi directly, begging him to allow Liu to leave China for proper medical care abroad. The appeals were denied. The German and American physicians who were finally permitted to visit Liu declared him fit to travel, but the authorities refused to let Liu leave the country.

Liu’s death marks the first time a Nobel peace prize winner has died behind bars since the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938.

While every courtesy was being shown Johnston and the Canadian delegation in Beijing on Thursday—Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger and NDP leader Tom Mulcair were among the Canadian politicians and officials attending dinner with Xi Thursday evening—the Chinese Communist Party’s vast propaganda and censorship apparatus roared into high gear.

READ MORE: As the U.S. retreats on trade, China is quietly picking up the pieces

China’s heavily-policed news media were permitted to publish only the most perfunctory authorized statements about Liu’s death. Liu’s friends and supporters were sternly warned that no public funeral or memorial would be tolerated. Any Chinese citizen who may have heard rumours of Liu’s failing health found their searches on the 250-million-user Sina Weibo microblog blocked by the message: “According to relevant laws and policies, results for ‘Liu Xiaobo’ cannot be displayed.”

The Chinese foreign ministry’s transcripts of news briefings have been scrubbed of all the questions international journalists have been asking about Liu, but German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is demanding answers: “China now has the responsibility to quickly, transparently and plausibly answer the question of whether the cancer could not have been identified much earlier.” Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said it was “deeply disturbing” that Liu was denied proper medical care before he became terminally ill, adding: “The Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.”

On Wednesday, Canada’s ambassador to China, the former cabinet minister John McCallum, claimed to have “repeatedly expressed” Canada’s concerns about Liu’s health in conversations with Chinese authorities. In the hours before Liu’s death on Thursday, in a meeting with Beijing’s Communist Party Secretary, McCallum pleaded: “We have to sell Canadian people that stronger ties with China is a good thing. And I am convinced that they are.”

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland offered a heartfelt but otherwise anodyne official statement expressing sadness at the news of Liu’s death, referring only obliquely to Liu having been “denied the medical treatment he requested.” Freeland lauded Liu as “a passionate writer, speaker and campaigner for political and social change.”

READ MORE: How America could spark an economic war with China

Liu’s widow, Liu Xia, appears to have been taken into custody. Placed under house arrest when her husband was found guilty of “subverting state power” on Christmas Day, 2009, Liu Xia has gone missing, friends of the family report. Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights are issuing appeals for Liu Xia’s release, so she can leave China. In Freeland’s statement, Liu Xia, “a tremendous symbol of courage and poise,”is only mentioned as having been subjected to house arrest.

For Canada, it’s business, business, more business, and public relations.

There is now no practical distinction anymore between the goals of the federal government, corporate Canada’s China trade lobby, and China’s foreign trade bureaucracy. If it all didn’t depend entirely on the systematic violation of solemn international covenants on human rights, democratic rights, workers rights and the Beijing police state’s savage oppression and exploitation of more than a billion people, it would be laughable.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, was bubbling in Beijing about Canada’s opportunity to “advance the agenda for people with disabilities” in China’s 2022 Olympics and Paralympics, a project that also presented China with the opportunity to engage in sports diplomacy and benefit from Canadians’ familiarity with ice and snow.

Shortly before Liu’s death on Thursday, Governor General Johnston was at the Beijing Hospital to deliver an effervescent speech at a “Canada-China symposium on senior care.” There was much praise for a memorandum of understanding between the Beijing Hospital and the Toronto-headquartered Baycrest Health Sciences, and for a commercial agreement between Baycrest and Zhonghong Zhuoye Group to build an “elder care facility” in southern China.

Johnston made no mention of the federal government’s inexplicable Investment Canada Act approval of the billion-dollar takeover of the Canadian seniors care home chain Retirement Concepts by the Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese real-estate giant mainly owned by a complex maze of shell companies.

READ MORE: Is war between America and China inevitable?

Until a few weeks ago, Anbang was run by Wu Xiaohui, the billionaire husband of former Chinese supreme leader Deng Xiaoping’s granddaughter. On June 8, Wu Xiaohui was whisked away from Anbang’s corporate offices by Beijing’s anti-corruption police. He immediately stepped down from his post as Anbang’s chairman and hasn’t been heard from since. But Anbang remains in good standing with the federal government, and of course with the Canada China Business Council.

Anbang is listed as one of the Canada China Business Council’s 13 “benefactor” corporations, a status that entitles the Chinese behemoth to “front-of-the-line member-benefits” along with such well-connected firms as the Power Corporation of Canada, Huawei Technologies and Bombardier.

Among the Canada China Business Council’s directors for 2017 is David Hartman, Executive Director of the Greater China Division of the federal uber-ministry Global Affairs Canada, and of course a senior member of Johnston’s China delegation this week.

It’s all so disgustingly chummy.



Ottawa’s despicable display in China

  1. Despicable is the right word for it. Give Kadr $10 million for having his rights violated, then jump on a plane and play nice with these abusive tyrants. Trudeau is so desperate for more foreign direct investment from China in order to climb out of the fiscal hole he has dug for us that he is no longer capable of shame. If he ever was.

  2. The writer and the media in general, are the despicables ones. Indeed, they are a bunch of cowards not to use the same retoric, about the torture and barbarian treatments that have been admited to take place at the US Guantanamo Bay prision. By omission Mr. Glavin is an accomplice.

    • Well, Trudeau was bromancing with Obama, selling out our softwood lumber producers, so he could get a state dinner with Obama, who kept on running Guantanamo. Obama was invited to speak in the House of Commons.

      Harper never bromanced George W. Bush. There was no state dinner for Harper at the Whitehouse under Bush or Obama. Bush wasn’t invited to speak in the House of Commons.

    • None of which negates the point of the article, right?

    • Yes, the subject of this article was about Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was murdered by the Party by deliberately ignoring his medical condition.

      May he rest in peace.

  3. Saudi Arabia

    • We don’t do as much business with the Saudis’.

      Bunch of flippin’ hypocrites.

      I liken the mouthing about human rights with women’s Olympic hockey. You know the story, make it an Olympic sport, increase interest and the rest of the countries will catch up competitively. I’m still waiting for a country to make it to Canadian/U.S. levels. It’s been how long now? And still it’s always either the Canucks or the Yanks for gold. Yeah, yeah I know ‘but it’s a medal’. Yeah, yeah I know ‘but it’s about business’.

  4. The Liberal leader was asked which nation he admired most. He responded: “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime.”

    Now that’s despicable. Though it didn’t stop enough from voting for him.

    • Trudeau is P.M. for one reason only. A strategic vote to kick out Harper. It’ll not happen next time.

      Nevertheless, Trudeau will get a nice pension for life … better than a junior school teacher.

      • You dont think so? Harper is still clearly running the show, This whole attempt to undermine Canada’s negotiating position with NAFTA though the Kent article in the WSJ and the Rebel and CPC MPs on Fox has Harpers fingerprints all over it.

        It is not just Harper but Harperism that Canadians despise.

        Scheer is a wiling sock puppet which is likely why he is leader after the shenanigans at the Conservative Convention.
        Maybe Bernier would not have been as easy to control.
        Anyway Scheer is blowing those dog whistles for all he is worth.

  5. I’m still trying to get my head around how Trudeau can claim to be for all things pure and progressive, yet he still enthusiastically seems to support every despotic dictatorship in the world, including China, Saudi, and Cuba. These countries really do torture people, abhor human rights and are the farthest thing from being feminist one could imagine.

    His bizarre pre-election comments about admiring China BECAUSE they are a dictatorship should give Canadians pause. Particularly after his open admission that electoral reform was only ever in the cards unless it let the Liberals turn Canada into a one party state.

    • Like father like son. His old man thought both China and Cuba were progressive models to emulate.

  6. Before the election, Trudeau was praising “China’s depraved Communist Party regime”. this is a quote from 2003 when he was expressing admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship.” I don’t think trudeau will run for another term because he knows he has a seat at the UN…good pay and pay no taxes.

    • Lets start adding up. Pay for play with Chinese bankers and suddenly China gets Old folks home deal. Jr makes deal on the sly to give a convicted terrorist $10.5M. Praises dictator/despot Castro. Quietly and I say this because the lib loving MSM is avoiding this like the plague, commits $240M+ to the Clinton foundation. How many other indiscretionate spending commitments has he made without the perusal of parliament? At this rate Jr may just find his latest sock statement covered with dripping tar and the liberal party a piece of history. For the sake of Canada maybe his bobblehead colleagues could rein him in for a couple more years

  7. This is just racism……and it won’t stand in the way of money.

    • They sign a free trade deal with China and we will have problems trading with the Americans. China could use Canada as a way of avoiding American duties, perhaps they already are???

      • We sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, and their human abuses are many.

        We trade with Colombia, Nigeria and of course the US…….which is noted for human rights abuse……..we overlook all of them

        But China? Suddenly we’re all righteous.

        But then again, the Chinese ‘look different’

        • When did the USA jail a human rights activist? Please enlighten us.

          • Where have you been for the last half century?

            You don’t remember water-boarding, Kent State, attack dogs,the Chicago


        • Exactly. The U.S. is going to get even scarier with the piece that Trump signed about lobbying but will mainstream point out the abuses? Majority won’t or they’ll word it like it’s no big deal. Naughty China. Naughty Middle Eastern countries.

          There are a few U.S lawsuits with ‘on the record’ abuses but those cases get settled very quickly with a muzzle provision.

          Yes, there are Canadian companies with dirty hands. Again, some of it has been muzzled so even mainstream can’t report on it.

          Until we clean the dog shit in our own country, it’s hypocritical for Canadians to point a finger at Anyone.

          The problem with propaganda if it doesn’t bear fruit people will remember. Easier to remember the bad than the good. And we can’t wipe out all the bad, perhaps over time it can be rewritten but there’s always someone out there who remembers.

        • You’re right Emily, the Arabs and Nigerians look just like us!!

          • Well Arabs do…..most people don’t know about Nigeria.

        • Your post points out what we already know…Canada has overlooked abuses that it should not have. Canada has also participated in abuses that it shouldn’t have:
          1) of indigenous people
          2) of Chinese people – our head tax
          3) of Japanese people – internment camps
          4) of persons of the Jewish faith – our refusal to let those fleeing the Holocaust on a boat come to Canada.
          We simply must do better. Ignoring abuses in the name of money is not okay no matter who is doing the abusing.

          • A country (Canada, in this case) does not commit abuses; people do.
            Occasionally, the electorate have chosen leaders who have made bad, even despicable, policy choices. The politicians in power, NOT the country or the electorate, are responsible for and guilty of these cruel, racist or sectarian policies.

            The wisdom of the collective electorate, in Canada, has repeatedly, throughout our history, exercised its power by choosing subsequent leaders who were dedicated to reversing bad, abusive policy.

  8. .
    Top 7 Communist Party talking points:
    1. “Be patient – it takes us [an unspecified number of generations] longer than the rest of the world to recognize universally-recognized basic human rights and freedoms.” [although we claim that our culture is one of the world’s oldest and most advanced]
    2. “It is racist to oppose the Peoples’ Republic of China.” [it’s not that we are ruled by a murderous, oppressive, corrupt, authoritarian regime, and it’s not that we Chinese are nationalist and racist ourselves]
    3. “In the past, other nations were imperialist, colonialist, murderous, oppressive, bullying, trade-dumping, polluting, etc. – so that gives us the right to be the same today.”
    4. “Don’t make us lose face.” [we’ll baffle you with Confucianism, “inscrutability”, “face-saving” and our ostensible lack of English skills, to prevent you from directly challenging us for as long as possible]
    5. “We lifted 300 million people out of poverty in the last 30 years.” [never mind that the still-impoverished Chinese citizenry would be less poor today NOT under the authoritarian rule of a corrupt Communist Party elite – and never mind that the Peoples’ Republic of China’s unsustainable competitive advantage parasitizes the jobs, wealth and homes of the global working class, exporting global poverty]
    6. “Us Chinese are still too backward and stupid to be responsible for our own governance, so must stay under Authoritarian rule.”
    7. “Look – a panda!”

  9. .
    We must reject investment, goods and services from the Peoples’ Republic of China and other parasite oppressor states whose trade is subsidized by a lack of: • human rights • worker rights • intellectual property rights • democracy • the rule of law • environmental protection • free-floating currency • free enterprise.

    The Peoples’ Republic of China’s corporate-authoritarianism is a direct viral attack on democracies. Oppressor state based multinationals easily out-compete western workers with the oppression subsidy. This has already cost us offshored jobs, innovation and growth in all sectors, our tax revenues, our wealth, and our housing affordability. Now, through disinvestment (aka “austerity”) we will lose our expensive democratic institutions, our fundamental rights and freedoms and our way of life.

    We must NOT untie rights, freedoms and institutions from international trade. We must ensure that our own corporate-political elites do not continue to conspire with oppressor states to roll back hundreds of years of Western social and political development from the Magna Carta on down to the present day. Our own corporate-political elites must not be permitted to destroy the foundation of OUR society and economy.
    Who will not fight and die as our ancestors did to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms?

    • The Chinese are probably the smartest people in the world……and it’s obvious that with your kind of thinking they will shortly overtake us

      • Your racism is showing. Again.

        • I see that you referred to “Top 7 Communist Party talking points” above before commenting.

          • Karl Marx died in 1883.

            Get over it.

          • She was at Karl’s funeral.

  10. Terry Glavin’s opinions are his only. Would he have us believe that a country of 1 billion is expected to kowtow to the wishes of one self-proclaimed single-minded reformer? We in America (and I include Canada) forget that not that many years ago (in my lifetime) slavery still existed in North America. Have we forgotten? The US Constitution proclaimed that all men are free and yet in actual practise blacks and minorities still experience prejudice in America. China today has made great strides in modernizing. Given time they will also improve their human rights record.

    • You’re more than 162 years old? You and Emily must have grown up together.

  11. You cannot worry about peoples’ lives and health if your primary focus is on making money, money, money. Sadly true for both Khadr and Liu Xiaobo. Khadr lived long enough to get an appropriate apology from Canada’s government (though one wonders if the statement was Liu somewhat disingenuous. Liu Xiaobo didn’t and won’t get an apology, from Canada or China.