A Vancouver court is the battleground for two visions of Canada’s future. The United States wants the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, a top Huawei executive, while China wants Canada to let her go.
As a matter of principle and strategy, Canada must stand up to Chinese imperialism by siding with the U.S.
The Huawei faceoff is more than a simple extradition case.
So far, China has operated in nothing but disproportionate bad faith. In response to Meng’s detention, it has sanctioned Canadian exports and taken two Canadians hostage.
Make no mistake; China is already wielding its growing economic and political clout to control Canadian society. Canada will need to take steps to cope with this growing tyranny and U.S. President Donald Trump is ready to help.
China has weaponized its rising economic status to make disputes costly. It is now Canada’s second-largest trading partner. Goods traded between the two nations have doubled in the last decade, and Chinese tourists, students, exports and direct investment add up to more than $100 billion a year.
Trade and investment with the United States, at $1 trillion, dwarfs this, but the trend is ominous.
Commerce with China is never just commerce – it comes with strings. Beijing expects Canadians to keep Canadian values out of any contracts.
The protests in Hong Kong made clear what’s at stake, and no country is more exposed to the events in Hong Kong than Canada. Around 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong, the single-largest concentration in Asia and more than in Canada’s territories. In addition, 500,000 Hong Kongers live in Canada, more than reside in mainland China, the U.S. or the United Kingdom.
In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged the Chinese government to approach the Hong Kong protests with tact. The Foreign Affairs minister at the time, Chrystia Freeland, listed concerns about the potential impact on Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong’s international reputation.
An irritated China responded by cautioning Canada against interfering in its legislative process. When Senators Leo Housakos and Thanh Hai Ngo suggested sanctioning Chinese officials under the Magnitsky Act, China’s ambassador threatened “very firm countermeasures.”
The Chinese have hired lobbyists, among them Karen Wen Lin Woods, co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee (CCPAC). Woods has used the Toronto Star opinion pages to assert the Meng extradition case “has put a dark cloud shrouding the psyche of many Chinese Canadians.” She warned of growing “McCarthyism” in Canada.
The university system is another target of China’s vigilance, through its funding of Confucius Institutes. According to the documentary In the Name of Confucius, these organizations are vehicles of espionage, censorship and curriculum manipulation.
Among the 800,000 Chinese students enrolled in foreign universities, many are believed to collaborate with embassies to blacklist professors and spy on peers.
In addition, China provides generous grants for foreign students to study in China, with one catch: abide by government censorship.
China is trying to bend Canadian culture to its will. This will only get worse as Chinese economic clout grows in Canada.
Canada must confront the problem of Chinese tyranny head-on by firmly defending the rule of law inside the nation and abroad.
Canada can do this by legislating its own version of America’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed in November 2019. This law recognizes Hong Kong as a separate entity from China for trade, investment and migration. It also allows sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese politicians responsible for human-rights violations.
The Canadian government should also invoke the Magnitsky Act, as suggested by Housakos and Ngo.
Canada also needs to reduce its growing economic dependence on China. Any steps in this direction will cause some pain, particularly in the west. Four of the five top products exported to China come from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
However, Canada can and should find other markets. The Business Council of Canada, for example, urges strengthening relations with Japan. The federal government could conclude a trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Nations.
Completing pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific Coast and the U.S. would also reduce the pain for Western Canada.
China’s demands won’t end with Meng’s extradition trial in Vancouver. Canada needs to realize that it stands at a crossroads and hold steadfast to its values.
Fergus Hodgson is the executive editor of Antigua Report, a columnist with the Epoch Times and a research associate with Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
CORRECTION April 2, 2020
An earlier version of this story misidentified Karen Wen Lin Woods as an employee of Solstice Public Affairs. Ms. Woods no longer works for Solstice Public Affairs. We apologize for the error.