Monday, June 6, 2016

Chinese envoy warns Canada airing human-rights issues a threat

Ambassador Luo Zhaohui
China’s ambassador in Ottawa is urging Canadians not to be “blinded” by their differences with his country over human rights and miss the opportunity to achieve what he calls a golden era in bilateral relations, including a possible free-trade deal.

Published on The Globe and Mail’s website Sunday, Ambassador Luo Zhaohui touted last week’s visit to Ottawa of Foreign Minister Wang Yi as an important step in boosting mutually beneficial relations. Wang sparked controversy during a press conference when he lashed out at a reporter for questioning the country’s human-rights record. The Chinese had earlier demanded a visit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which it eventually received.

Wang Yi
The ambassador echoed Mr. Wang’s concern about journalists who ignore China’s “tremendous and universally recognized achievements” in human rights and focus only on its problems. To do so, he warned, risks undermining hopes of the two governments to enhance China-Canada relations.

At a news conference last week, Mr. Wang berated the reporter after she asked a question about China’s human-rights record and the imprisonment of Canadian missionary Kevin Garratt. On the global stage, Chinese leaders have often bristled at foreign criticism and used the threat of damaged economic relations to quell it.
China wants to begin negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement. But before talks can start, Ottawa must approve an oil-sands export pipeline through British Columbia, and roll back restrictions on state-owned companies buying oil-sands assets.

The Canada China Business Council estimates a free-trade pact could boost Canadian exports by $7.7-billion by 2030 and create an additional 25,000 Canadian jobs. But critics worry such a deal would be one-sided. Canada had a $46-billion trade deficit with China last year, importing manufactured goods and exporting raw materials and agricultural products.