Canada may take 'additional measures' against China over national security law: Champagne
'We will have a lot more to say in the days and weeks ahead,' says foreign affairs minister
Canada may take further measures against China on top of suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, says Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that Canada will no longer extradite people to Hong Hong because of the new national security law China has imposed on the semi-autonomous region.
Several people have already been arrested under the law, which makes secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the region's internal affairs.
Canada's diplomatic relationship with China has been strained since the December 2018 arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. The Huawei CFO faces extradition to the U.S. on allegations of fraud.
After Meng's arrest, Chinese authorities detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. The two men have since been charged with spying.
Champagne spoke to As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue on Friday. Here is part of their conversation.
Minister Champagne, what message are you trying to send to China?
The first one is that Canada is taking action following the imposition of the national security law.
The second thing is that Canada will stand up for the people of Hong Kong, and that we are also prepared to consider additional measures.
That should come as no surprise to Hong Kong, because we had said in the various statements ... if they were going ahead and imposing a national security law on the people of Hong Kong without consulting the people, the legislative branch or the judiciary, that we as Canada would have to review the implications and the ramifications in the number of arrangements we have.
You say Canada is taking action. How much does President Xi Jinping care whether Canada suspends our extradition treaty with Hong Kong or not?
Well, I think if I was in Beijing, I would.
Canada is in good company. I have been talking to the U.K. foreign secretary. We exchanged views this morning. Also, with the Australian foreign minister. We have been consistent in our approach in telling Beijing to change course because that would undermine significantly the pillar, the foundational pillars that have made Hong Kong what it is, which is liberty and freedom.
And now what we have seen with the imposition of the national security law, that's a significant step back for the liberty and freedom of the people in Hong Kong.
You say Canada's in good company. But again, does Xi Jinping listen to what Canada's saying on Hong Kong or on two Canadians who are being held in custody?
The people in Hong Kong obviously listen. You know, we have a vested interest. We have ... about 300,000 Canadian citizens currently living in Hong Kong based on our latest estimate. So we have a vested interest in what is happening in Hong Kong.
I would say when it comes to the two Michaels, I hope they're listening because I can tell you that the international community sees Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor not only as two Canadians [who] are arbitrarily detained in China, but they see these two as two citizens of a liberal democracy which are arbitrarily detained. They see coercive diplomacy in action. And it's sending a chilling effect, because I can tell you in a number of capitals, people are reflecting that today they are Canadians. Tomorrow, they could be citizens of another country.
So I would hope that Beijing is listening and realizing what it's doing to its standing around the world.
You said that you've spoken with your colleagues and counterparts in the U.K. and Australia, so you'd know that they've gone further than Canada. I mean, [U.K.] Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to extend residency to millions of people who are eligible for overseas U.K. passports. The Australian government is working on immigration measures to welcome Hong Kongers who need to leave. Will Canada provide safe harbour for residents from Hong Kong who feel that they're no longer free?
What I said is that we have exchanged views, and we're going to continue to do that. I mean, Canada's front and centre when it comes to that. We consult with each other, whether it's the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the United States.
I think the prime minister has been clear this morning that the measures we're taking today were to protect people, but that we were prepared to consider additional measures. And that's what we're doing in consultation with our international partners to see as the situation warrants and evolves.
What kind of immigration measures are you considering?
There's a range of options that we have at our disposal.
We, as Canada, are reviewing the various options. We will have a lot more to say in the days and weeks ahead.
Will you modify work and study visa programs, for example? Why not go as far as the United Kingdom has?
As I was saying, there's a range of options that we are considering. It's a very live discussion going on now, both in Canada, but also with our international partners. And we will have more to say as the situation evolves, because this is only 48 hours after the law was implemented.
We want to see how the law is going to be interpreted and applied. We've already seen recent examples, which are worrying, and that's why we are considering additional measures.
There are people in Hong Kong who are very concerned right now that they don't have due process or protection of their human rights. There are a group of senators here in Canada who are saying that the government should use the Magnitsky Acts to sanction Chinese officials who are responsible for abusing human rights in Hong Kong. Is that something your government would consider?
We will consider appropriate measures as the situation evolves and as we see the law being applied in Hong Kong.
So would the Magnitsky Act and use of it be on the table then?
It's one of the options that we have. Again, like I said, Duncan, we came out today with measures to protect people. That was first and foremost for us. How can we ensure the protection of people? We've done that. And then the prime minister has alluded to additional measures that we're prepared to take.
With respect to immigration, there's other measures that we could take. But every measure that we will be taking would be looking at the best interest of Canada and making sure that the vibrant relationship that exists already between Canada and Hong Kong can continue, but that we stand up and speak up for the people of Hong Kong and call it for what it is.
In terms of speaking up, there are people asking about whether Canada is taking enough action. And I mean, Guy Saint-Jacques, the former Canadian ambassador to China, told As It Happens a couple of weeks ago that the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig has forced Canada to pull its punches on this issue in Hong Kong. What would you say to Mr. Saint-Jacques?
I respect his opinion.
I said there is no more important priority than, obviously, to stand up and speak up for Canadians. There's no higher duty for any government to ensure the health and safety of its citizens. And that's what we are most concerned about. And we will continue.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Edited for length and clarity.