Members of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Canada Files about the strengths and weaknesses of the Green Party statement concerning Meng Wanzhou.
Green Party statement takes brave stance on Meng Wanzhou, but pushes imperialist narratives about China | Op-Ed
October 29, 2020
David Rennie and Ken Stone
In its July 15 statement, the Green Party of Canada (GPC) did the right thing in calling for the Trudeau government to drop the extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, and release her from house arrest.
We congratulate Green Party foreign affairs critic, MP Paul Manly, who stated that “the Trump administration abused the extradition treaty for political purposes… This became clear when President Trump offered to exchange Ms. Meng’s release for concessions in a trade deal. The U.S. administration can choose to pursue the Huawei corporation or bring a civil case against Meng for violating (U.S.) sanctions (on Iran), but Canada cannot continue to be used as a pawn in a trade dispute between the United States and China.”
We note that the Green Party is the only parliamentary party to call for Meng’s release so far, and we hope the other opposition parties come on board soon. However, the problem is that the Green Party’s statement, a bit like a furry dog on an autumnal walk in the Canadian woods, comes with a number of burrs. If allowed to sprout, they would turn into noxious weeds poisoning Canada-China relations even more than the arrest of Meng Wanzhou.
Four of these burrs in the July 15 statement are: “China’s occupation of Tibet,” “the treatment of religious minorities,” “the Uyghur concentration camps” and… “the new security law in Hong Kong.”
Let’s deal with them one at a time.
Today, Tibet is part of China. It has been part of China, almost continuously, for over 700 years.
The modern severance of Tibet from China was part of the dismemberment and humiliation of China by Western colonial powers starting in the mid-19th century, that saw Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and Tsarist Russia establish control over huge swaths of Chinese territory. It was a British expeditionary force that severed Tibet from China in 1904 and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army that reunited Tibet with the People’s Republic in 1950 as an autonomous region.
In the 70 years that Tibet has been reunited to China, average life expectancy for Tibetans has risen from 35.5 years to 70 years. In the same time period, infant mortality has dropped from 430 to 20.69 per 1,000 births. Deaths of women in childbirth similarly declined from 5,000 to 176.48 per 10,0000 births. And the population in Tibet has tripled to three million since 1951, with ethnic Tibetans accounting for 90.48%, according to China’s sixth national census. The mass of Tibetans in 1950 were poverty-stricken serfs belonging to a tiny Tibetan aristocracy. In 2019, Tibet recorded the fastest growth rate in personal income of all regions in China.
Tibet was part of the Qing Dynasty of China in 1648 when the feudal monarchies of Europe gathered in (what is today) Germany, after a series of long, bloody and ineffective wars, to draw up the Treaty of Westphalia. It was the world’s first convention on international law, by which they agreed to respect existing national boundaries and not to meddle in each other’s affairs.
Green Party leaders, however, seem to have missed history class on the day that the Treaty of Westphalia was covered in the curriculum. They pander to the notion that Tibet is not part of sovereign China, firmly orienting themselves to the Western, neo-colonial powers who divided up China in the past and are still in the business of trying to sever pieces of it, such as Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan; of conducting military exercises in the South China Sea; and of attempting regime change in Beijing. The July 15 statement is, then, a signal that should the Green Party came to power in Ottawa, it would unfortunately respect neither China’s sovereignty nor the principal of non-interference in the domestic affairs of the People’s Republic.
Let’s turn the tables on the Green Party argument. How would the GPC like it if China called for the separation from Canada of the Province of Québec (captured by the British in 1756), or of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (seized from the Metis Nation by Canada after the failed Rebellions of 1870 and 1885), or the repatriation of all formerly Indigenous land in Canada? Of course, China wouldn’t do that. Although having been the victim of very bloody imperial predations in the past, the Chinese government does none of the above. Instead, it respects international law and refrains from meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. And these are precisely the reasons for which China is welcomed by governments in the Global South to build the infrastructure for its Belt and Road Initiative, and for its rapidly-spreading influence throughout the formerly colonized continents of the world.
For the GPC to dispute China’s sovereignty over Tibet in a statement about freeing Meng Wanzhou is, therefore, to set out to poison Canada’s relationship with China.
Treatment of Religious Minorities
Similarly, by simply repeating the claim that there is ill-treatment of religious minorities in China without even bothering to list the names of the allegedly persecuted faith communities, or to provide any evidence of that ill-treatment, strongly suggests that the GPC identifies itself with the Western mindset where “China = bad.”
Like Canada, China is a secular country. As in Canada, Chinese citizens are guaranteed freedom of religion. And as in Canada, religious practices flourish in China. According to the Chinese government, in 1997, out of a population of 1.2 billion, there were one hundred million followers of five officially-recognized faiths in China – Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. There were 85,000 places of worship across the country, 300,000 members of the clergy, over 3,000 religious organizations, and 74 religious seminaries run by those organizations to train the clergy. More than 20 million copies of the Bible were printed in the previous decade, far more than have ever been printed in Canada. According to the census of 2010, 52.2% of Chinese people reported no religious affiliation. In Canada, the figure is 29.3%.
There are some restrictions in China. According to the 1982 Constitution, “No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” The first statement deals with cults such as Falun Gong, whose main raison d’être has become opposition to the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The second statement deals with foreign control of religious organizations within China, such as the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is, in effect, the church of Chinese Catholics.
Having been colonized, divided up, impoverished and humiliated by Western colonial powers for a century, the Chinese recall the role of foreign missionaries to soften up resistance to foreign occupation. For that reason, the Chinese, mindful of the role that the Vatican played in the overthrow of socialism in Poland in 1989, have developed a working relationship with the Vatican so that, while China oversees the Catholic church in China, it submits the election of Chinese bishops to the Vatican for ratification.
Green Party leaders should not be too quick to cast aspersions on the Chinese government. Firstly, they might want to consider how foreign missionaries have affected the process of colonization of native peoples in Canada. Missionaries were often the soft power advocates of the British and French empires who preceded the soldiers, the muskets, the forts, the settlers and the governors. Missionaries significantly undermined native belief systems and cultures, turning them into the willing partners of fur trading companies and the foot soldiers of the warring European empires. Religious societies were also the willing accomplices of the Canadian state under its founder, Sir John A. Macdonald, who created the decades-long attempt at cultural genocide of Canada’s native peoples known as the Residential School System.
Secondly, GPC leaders ought to recall that Canada’s record on religious minorities is not without blemish. Doukhobors were disenfranchised, arrested and lost their lands and children to a Canadian government which abhorred their pacifism during two world wars. “None is too many” was the response given by a high-level Canadian government official when asked how many Jews should be accepted into the country, during the time of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Then there was the Komagata Maru incident, involving the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, on which a group of 337 Sikhs, 27 Muslims and 12 Hindus, all British subjects from British-occupied India, attempted to immigrate to Canada in April 1914. Most were denied entry and forced to return to Kolkata. There, the Indian Imperial Police attempted to arrest the group leaders. A riot ensued, and police fired on the crowd, killing 20 people.
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Uyghur Concentration Camps
In China’s Xinjiang region lives a population of Uyghurs. They are mostly Muslims and, according to the Chinese government, their ethnic background is Tiele. Like Canada, China is a multi-cultural country with 55 recognized ethnic minorities. In recognition of their unique national rights and customs, China designated the area as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. There, the Uyghurs practise their faith at some 25,000 mosques, send their kids to schools in their national language, enjoy the same political rights and access all the same social services as other Chinese, and have limited self-rule.
Uyghurs have thrived in the People’s Republic of China, their numbers in Xinjiang increasing by 25% in the past decade alone. (So much for Western claims of a “genocide”!) In fact, while other Chinese citizens were limited for a time to raising only a single child per family, Uyghurs were allowed two.
Unlike Canada, which sits serenely surrounded by three oceans and has no foreign rivals with designs on Ottawa for regime change, China is surrounded by U.S. military/naval bases and less-than-friendly neighbours such as India, Japan and South Korea. Several other countries have designs on its government, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which have encouraged and supported the formation of separatist groups inside Xinjiang that, in turn, have engaged in terrorist activities which resulted, over a period of several decades, in much loss of life and destruction of property. In fact, those two governments arranged for the relocation of some 15,000 Chinese Uyghurs to the Syrian province of Idlib, where they are currently accumulating military experience fighting against the government of Syria, in preparation for a return to Xinjiang to conduct an armed struggle against the Chinese government.
Yes, when the Chinese authorities arrest some of these Uyghur separatists/terrorists, they are subject to re-education and re-training. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police do precisely the same with Canadian veterans of ISIS returning from Iraq and Syria and those apprehended before getting there. The highly-secretive program is called “de-radicalization.” But to suggest that China maintains huge concentration camps in which millions of Uyghurs are interned is a ridiculous libel, unsupported by evidence from any credible source.
It’s one of those libels, however, that is typically used as a pretext for “humanitarian” military intervention. If you believe (as did the U.S. Senate in 1990) that Saddam Hussein’s troops in 1990 threw Kuwaiti babies onto the floor and stole the incubators or, in 2003, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or, in 2011, that Muammar Gaddafi gave Viagra to African mercenaries to rape Libyan women, you might well believe the fiction of Uyghur concentration camps. Apparently, the Green Party leadership does.
Hong Kong & the new Security Law
Like Tibet, Hong Kong was an integral part of China. In 1842, following China’s defeat in the First Opium War, the victorious British Empire carved out the colony as an enclave to punish China for refusing lucrative imports of British opium from India. It was the beginning of a century of Western colonial domination of China. China was forced to sign a 99-year lease of the territory of Hong Kong to Britain in 1898. After the lease expired, China retook possession of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, with the agreement that, for 50 years, Hong Kong would retain its capitalist system and some of the institutional trappings of the British colonial administration, under the rubric of “One country, two systems.”
The protests which erupted in Hong Kong in June 2019 were over the implementation of an extradition treaty between China and Hong Kong. Hong Kong had long been used as a safe haven for Chinese citizens who, facing serious charges and possible convictions in mainland China, sought to escape justice. Though Hong Kong is once again part of China, Chinese authorities are unable to extradite offenders from there. The extradition law was not about stifling freedom or democracy, neither of which, we might add, was ever offered to Hong Kong residents under British colonial rule.
The riots were fueled, instigated, and funded by Hong Kong entrepreneur and media magnate, Jimmy Lai and Western NGOs, such as the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, with almost US$3 billion in total funding, according to Chinese sources. Protestors from Hong Kong moved back and forth to the halls of power in Washington and London with the greatest facility. Separatist demonstrators waved the Union Jack and the Star-Spangled Banner at demonstrations and called for “Making Hong Kong Great Britain Again!”
Despite massive disruptions to Hong Kong’s economy lasting 12 months, the likes of which would never have been tolerated in the West, including the torching of the legislative building, damage to the subway system and the airport, and other acts of extreme vandalism including regular attacks against police, only two protesters were killed. Compare this to the French government’s reaction to the Yellow Vest protests during which at least 11 people died, five lost hands, 23 their eyesight, and hundreds were injured. Chinese authorities finally tired of the upheaval and, in 2020, instituted the new Security Law. The Security Law carries potentially long prison sentences for residents, parties and NGOs in Hong Kong that accept foreign funds. The very next day after the law came in to effect, the Demosisto Party, led by Joshua Wong Chi-fung, disbanded and the protest movement abated. In effect, the Hong Kong protests were a “colour revolution,” an attempted regime change operation, supported to the hilt by the Trudeau government of Canada, the Trump administration and Boris Johnson’s UK Tories.
Are these the bedfellows with whom the Green Party of Canada wishes to sleep?
No to Imperialist attitudes about China
The Green Party accusations against China, the “burrs” mentioned in its July 15 statement, re Tibet, religious minorities, concentration camps and Hong Kong, were followed by the observation: “Closer trade relations with China must be contingent on improving human rights, the rule of law and democratic development.”
Is the GPC talking about human rights in China or Canada? Just this month, an Ottawa court acquitted a cop for beating, with brass knuckles, Abdulrahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian with mental health issues, to the point that he later died. Abdi is just the latest in a long string of deaths at the hands of Canadian police of people of colour or Indigenous origin. Eight Native citizens have been killed by police so far in 2020. And Canadians have been demonstrating all year long, demanding an end to systemic racial discrimination.
As for the “rule of law,” where was the RCMP when thugs assaulted a Mi’kmaq chief, burnt a fishing boat and set fire to a lobster pound? How is it within the rule of law when Ontario Provincial Police, using a court injunction, forcibly broke up a Haudenosaunee “reclamation” encampment in Caledonia just last week, while the traditional Confederacy of the Six Nations was not even consulted about the proposed housing development on land it claims? Perhaps Canada could use some “democratic development!”
One might also ask, where does the Green Party leadership get off by lecturing China about human rights and democratic development? Clearly, the GPC thinks it can because of centuries of European colonialism, based on concepts like the French “mission civilatrice” (civilizing mission) and the British “white man’s burden.” Rich white folks have looked down their long noses upon the allegedly “inferior” peoples of the world long enough. But the Green Party is on record, in its “Statement on Non-Violence,” as favouring “removing the causes of war by understanding and respecting other cultures.”
So, Green Party of Canada: We salute you for joining the growing movement in Canada to FREE MENG WANZHOU! Please leave all your colonial, white-supremacist baggage at the door.
Ken Stone and David Rennie are members of the Executive Committee of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War, which initiated parliamentary petition e-2857 to FREE MENG WANZHOU and is in the process of trying to build a cross-Canada campaign for her release.