China's rights record improving, diplomats say
Document reveals foreign-service officials hold much rosier view of Beijing than does Harper cabinet
From Monday's Globe and Mail
November 19, 2007 at 5:21 AM EST
BEIJING — China is making "incremental progress" in human rights and is likely to continue making "steady forward movement" in the future, according to a confidential report by Canadian diplomats in Beijing.
The report, obtained by The Globe and Mail, suggests that Canada's diplomats have a much rosier view of China than those expressed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet ministers, who have been highly critical of China's human-rights record.
Some members of Mr. Harper's government have privately complained that the Foreign Affairs Department is too cozy with China and too complacent about China's abuses of human rights and religious rights. The Harper government has vowed to take a stronger line on human rights, and it has cancelled the annual "human-rights dialogue" with China until the process is changed.
There have been growing signs of a rift between the Harper cabinet and the diplomatic service. Earlier this year, Mr. Harper's office criticized Canadian diplomats in Beijing for failing to attend the trial of a Canadian citizen accused of terrorism. A few weeks later, Mr. Harper reportedly complained that Canada's diplomats are sometimes failing to follow the government's policies. Around the same time, the Foreign Affairs Department ordered its diplomats to "align" themselves with the Harper government's priorities.
The confidential report by the Canadian embassy in Beijing, obtained under access-to-information law, is filled with praise for many aspects of China's human-rights record, although it also has negative assessments of many issues. It suggests a far more nuanced and cautious view of China than the sharply critical views often expressed by Conservative politicians in recent years.
The report argues, for example, that China's dissidents are getting better treatment these days, because their prison sentences are often less than five years, which is "a marked contrast" to the jail terms of 15 or 20 years in the past.
The report also maintains that Chinese scholars "continue to enjoy increasing intellectual freedom." It praises the "steady increase in personal freedoms of the average person." And it argues that the Chinese authorities "may be losing the battle to control the Internet."
But despite the best efforts of the Canadian diplomats, relations between Canada and China have tumbled into the deep freeze since Mr. Harper took office. Tensions grew worse when the Prime Minister criticized China's treatment of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen who was jailed in China on terrorism allegations. China denounced Mr. Harper last month for meeting the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.
In the latest sign of poor relations, Canada's deputy minister of foreign affairs travelled to Beijing last week and did not meet a single Chinese official. The Globe and Mail has learned that the deputy minister, Leonard Edwards, spent three days in Beijing last week. But the Foreign Affairs Department confirmed that he did not hold any meetings with Chinese officials. Instead he "conducted a series of internal consultations" at the Canadian embassy, a department spokesman said.
The spokesman did not say whether the Chinese government had deliberately snubbed Mr. Edwards by rejecting his request for meetings, or whether Mr. Edwards simply had not requested any. But either way, the absence of meetings is a commentary on the deteriorating relationship between Canada and China, according to Liberal MP Navdeep Bains.
"It reflects a very low point, a historical low, in our relations with China," said Mr. Bains, the Liberal critic for international trade.
"While the rest of the world is engaging with China, we're moving backward. The government has continuously insulted China, and now the Chinese government is pushing back. It has serious economic consequences for Canada."
Mr. Harper's government has denied that Canada is suffering any economic damage as a result of the political tensions between the two countries. It notes, for example, that Canada's exports to China soared by 43 per cent in the first seven months of this year.
The government has tentative plans to send two cabinet ministers to Beijing early next year to try to revive the relationship.
Hong Kong holds local district council elections
Pro-Beijing candidates win nearly one-third of available seats
Vote seen as test for pro-democracy sentiments in Hong Kong
HONG KONG, China (AP) -- Pro-Beijing candidates delivered a crushing blow to Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp, sweeping up nearly a third of the district council seats up for grabs, according to election results Monday.
Although district councilors have little real power, the election had been seen as a litmus test of the public's appetite for democratic reform amid an economic upturn, and the democrats' popularity ahead of more important legislative polls next year.
The Beijing-backed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong won 115 out of 364 seats, nearly double the seats it won in the last elections.
The main opposition Democratic Party secured 60, or slightly more than half the number of candidates it fielded.
The election result be caused by multiple reasons, one of which could be, instead of Martin's behaviour itself, the negative attitude of the HK pro-democracy people toward Martin.
I am afraid that more evidence is needed to make any caucal inference about Martin using this brief report.
Just my 2 cent.
Yes, there’re many reasons... but go to Yahoo HK news blog and see how people reacted to the result of this election.
Yes, this is not a scientific reflection of HK people’s view, but it at least shows Martin Lee’s comment has been used/viewed quite negatively by many people in HK.
Yes, I disagreed with these kinds of views, but these are the people who count in a democratic election, not us.