Harper in China: "Are there obstacles?"

Here’s the portion of Stephen Harper’s speech tonight to the Canada-China Business Council in Guangzhou that dealt, if I am reading it correctly, with rights. These were his longest public comments on that general topic during his China visit, although as you will see, that’s largely because he was at such exquisite pains to couch every snippet of criticism in layers of mitigating on-the-other-handism. But don’t take my word for it:

Are there obstacles? Of course there are. Canada does not — and cannot — disconnect our trading relationship from fundamental national values.

Canadians understand that our own wealth and prosperity have come about, and are broadly shared, not just because of abundant resources and hard work, but because of our commitment to freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights for everyone.

Canadians believe, and have always believed, that the kind of mutually beneficial economic relationship we seek is also compatible with a good and frank dialogue on fundamental principles such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of belief and worship.

And they demand that their government — and their businesses — uphold these national characteristics in all our dealings.

Canadians also demand that their government be a responsible global citizen in dealing with the peace and security challenges that confront the world. And, wherever we can, urge other governments, including global actors like China, to do the same.

In saying these things, let me be clear that I do not claim to fully understand the unique kinds of challenges that a huge, emerging, spectacularly expanding economy, such as this one, faces.

Today, the drive in from the airport is a powerful picture of how millions of people are bettering their lives through industry and investment. Without a doubt, this is its own kind of liberation.  Nor do I ignore the undeniable differences of Chinese culture and history.

However, as Canadians our history has taught us that economic, social and political development are, over time, inseparable. And it is our national creed that people of all cultures can be Canadian, enjoying and participating in all aspects of our democratic society as, indeed, Canadians of Chinese origin do today.

Therefore, in relations between China and Canada, you should expect us to continue to raise issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights and to be a vocal advocate for these, just as we will be an effective partner in our growing and mutually beneficial economic relationship.