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HomeBusinessOp-ed: Today’s Michaels, Tomorrow’s Hong Kongers

Op-ed: Today’s Michaels, Tomorrow’s Hong Kongers

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Joint statement from a group of concerned Canadians of Chinese descent

Not long after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the U.S., two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained by the Chinese government, now for over 560 days.

Following Meng’s loss in her first bid to avoid extradition, and the court ruling that her extradition hearings will proceed, the Chinese government announced that the two Michaels are charged with the serious felony of espionage. A top spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs even suggested that the two Canadians could be released if Ottawa intervenes in Meng’s extradition case and sets her free.

Louis Huang protested outside Meng Wanzhou’s March 6 court date (Mackin)

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” the same spokesperson said.

The case of Meng and the two Michaels illustrates how the Chinese government uses the rhetoric of “the rule of law” to advance its political agenda, while engaging in hostage diplomacy and toying with human lives.  

When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) speaks of upholding “the rule of law,” it is not referring to the democratic idea of separation of powers within a government which ensures the restraint of power for the protection of the rights and liberties of its citizens. Instead, the “rule of law,” as invoked by the CCP, is merely a political buzz word to cover up the “co-operation” of the three powers under its one-party rule. This stands in direct contradiction to the legal system in Hong Kong and other democratic countries with judicial independence. This difference is precisely the problem with CCP’s imposition of the “National Security Law” on Hong Kong in the name of national security. 

The move also contravenes the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a legally-binding international treaty registered with the United Nations, as well as in direct contradiction with the Hong Kong Basic Law.

The CCP’s argument is that national security is a greater priority than maintaining the “one country two systems” principle, and since democratic countries also have national security laws, they don’t have the right to interfere in China’s internal need for the same.

Although Canada and many democratic countries indeed have their own national security laws, such laws do not criminalize people for applying political pressure on the government, expressing criticism of the head of state, or even calling for the governing party to step down. Quebecers’ or Californians’ sovereignty movements, for example, are not illegal; as freedom of speech and the freedom to protest and demonstrate are guaranteed constitutional rights.

Such are not the case in Mainland China, where expressing opposition to officials’ corruption, critiquing government officials and the CCP, advocating for democracy, freedom, and rights protection can all be deemed as subversive actions or treason against the state, and any citizens so charged are subject to secret trial and indefinite imprisonment.  

When the Chinese government talks about national security, it is primarily concerned with the protection of the security of the Chinese Community Party and its leaders, and not the security of its citizens’ rights as set out in its constitution. Therefore, CCP’s so-called “National Security Law” is really a “CCP Security Law” in disguise.

Fearing that Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech and assembly may destabilize the regime, the CCP introduced the “National Security Law” to override Hong Kong’s judicial independence, thereby extending its practice of suppression of such freedoms to Hong Kong.

After such Law’s implementation, both residents and non-residents in Hong Kong will lose their basic human rights and freedoms. The Chinese government and its lackeys will crackdown on dissidents who have raised criticisms of the Hong Kong and Beijing administrations, or those who have been in communication with (and therefore deemed to be conspiring with) foreign governments. 

Sadly, the unlawful detention of the two Canadian Michaels is just a prelude to the fate of many Hong Kong people now that the National Security Law has come into effect.

Pro-Hong Kong protest at Robson Square in Vancouver in September 2019 (Mackin)

With article 38 of Hong Kong’s National Security Law incriminating those critical of CCP even if they are non-residents outside of Hong Kong, Canada and the international community can no longer be bystanders. In the face of brutal human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Canada must not limit its action to statements of concern or verbal condemnations.

We hereby call on the Canadian government to:

  1. Develop a comprehensive strategic policy towards China and share that with all levels of government;
  2. Take strong actions to repatriate the two Michaels back to Canada without yielding to the CCP’s hostage diplomacy and other bullying tactics;
  3. Extend assistance including asylum to Hong Kong democracy activists facing   persecution;
  4. Take punitive actions against Chinese and Hong Kong government officials and their accomplices who have committed human rights abuses.

A group of concerned Canadians of Chinese descent (in alphabetical order, organizational titles are for identification purpose only and do not represent the opinion of the respective named organization)

  • Bill Chu, Founder of Canadians for Reconciliation Society
  • Gloria Fung President of Canada-Hong Kong Link
  • Victor L.M. Ho, Co-founder of Vancouver-based Media Analytica Inc.
  • Liane Lee, Former HK student union delegate in Beijing 1989, Tiananmen Massacre eyewitness & Vice-Chair of Toronto Association for Democracy in China
  • Eric Li, Past President of Canada-Hong Kong Link
  • Ivy Li, Retired design professor
  • Mabel Li, Chair of Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement
  • Thekla Lit, Founder and President of B.C. Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA). 
  • Thomas Lou, Retired journalist
  • Dora Ng, LGBTQ activist
  • Stanley Ng, President of Institute for Christian Action  & Contemplation 
  • Winnie Ng, Chair of Toronto Association for Democracy in China
  • Fenella Sung Core Member of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong
  • Tommy Tao, Retired lawyer
  • Ken Tung, Past Chairperson of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
  • Anna Victoria Wong, Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology
  • Yan Chun Kau, Writer
  • Gabriel Yiu, Former Chair of Hong Kong Forum
  • Eleanor Yuen Former Head of Asian Library, UBC
  • Rev. Howard Yeung, Spiritual Director of Institute for Christian Action  & Contemplation

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