As It Happens·Q&A

Chinese ambassador should apologize or be expelled for 'threatening' Canadians in Hong Kong: activist

China's ambassador to Canada should apologize or be expelled for remarks he made about the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, says a Canadian living in the semi-autonomous region. 

'This is outrageous, honestly,' says Canadian Edward Chin. 'I think he should be reprimanded'

Edward Chin, hedge fund manager and founder of Occupy Central's banking and finance group, says Canadians in Hong Kong have been at risk ever since China imposed its national security law on the semi-autonomous region. (Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)

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China's ambassador to Canada should apologize or be expelled for remarks he made about the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, says a Canadian living in the semi-autonomous region. 

Last week, Ambassador Cong Peiwu warned the Canadian government not to grant asylum to Hong Kong residents fleeing China's controversial national security law, which bans secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities, and has been wielded against critics and protesters. China imposed the law on Hong Kong, which is supposed to have legal autonomy under the "one country, two systems" agreement.

"If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong … you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes," Cong said.

Canada's deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland said the ambassador's remarks were "not in any way in keeping with the spirit of appropriate diplomatic relations between two countries." Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says that if Cong refuses to apologize, Canada should withdraw his diplomatic credentials.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended Cong's remarks, saying Canadian leaders "did not verify, but also condoned the anti-China comments spreading across the nation and made groundless accusations against China."

Edward Chin agrees with O'Toole. He is a Canadian hedge fund manager who lives and works in Hong Kong, and a longtime activist in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Mr. Chin, how secure do you feel as a Canadian in Hong Kong right now?

I think this [statement from the ambassador] is one of the so-called wolf warrior tactics they have been using over the last couple of years. But it kind of got escalated in the last little while.

Do you feel secure since these remarks on the part of the [Chinese] ambassador? 

Even before this gentlemen's remarks, after the [national security law] came into effect, I don't think anyone would feel secure in Hong Kong because this is exactly one country, one system now. So how can anyone feel secure in Hong Kong?

Because last year, every Hong Kong person, more than two million people, came out to fight very hard [against] the extradition bill that finally got retracted. Now, this is 10 times worse. This is the nuclear option that they think of.

Cong Peiwu, China's ambassador Canada, has warned the Trudeau government against taking in refugees fleeing Hong Kong's national security law. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

But this seems to have been in reaction to suggestions that Canada would offer asylum to people from Hong Kong, democracy activists who are feeling threatened by the … national security law since it came into place, and that this has been the way that Hong Kong [has reacted] to Canada's offer of asylum. Does that change things?

I think Canada has done the right thing to give asylum to those demonstrators who came out and [fought] for democracy, because they were fighting for their life, basically.

We have to go back a few months earlier. Why do people come up and protest? Because the two systems is gone. 

Now, the Chinese ambassador to Canada, you know, whatever he said is threatening. Threatening. This is outrageous, honestly. I think he should be reprimanded.

China's ambassador in Ottawa was … warning against the granting asylum to Hong Kong dissidents, and he said, "If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong and the large number of Canadian companies operating Hong Kong, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes." And, of course, is referring to the national security law. Does that sound like a threat to you?

Does it mean that they want to treat the Chinese-Canadians or Caucasian-Canadians in Hong Kong, just like the two Michaels, just to abduct them into China?

They could just use any excuse and detain someone.

I think that the Trudeau government, [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau together with Chrystia Freeland, I think they should really have a strong statement saying, you know, like, "This is a threat." Because, you know, there are a lot of mainland students studying in Canada.

Canada, they don't do the same type of threat. This is something really outrageous, and only like a totalitarian regime would do that, threatening people.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's finance minister and deputy prime minister, said in the House of Commons that she is well aware of the character of Communist authoritarian regimes.' (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Chrystia Freeland has spoken out in Canada. She has said this is not in the spirit of diplomatic relations … but the Opposition is saying that the government should go further, that in fact, they should demand the ambassador either apologize or leave the country, have his credentials pulled. Do you think that Canada should go that far?

The opposition party is saying the right thing. Because definitely this Chinese ambassador … should definitely apologize.

The Opposition leader, I agree with him. You know, they should do something to show that Canada is not one of the weakest Five Eyes countries. Because it's perceived that way, especially in Hong Kong.

You have been an activist. You have been outspoken for years, even before this national security law came into effect, and as you point out, became something where people who speak out against China could be arrested, that free speech has been criminalized.... Are you concerned that they you might be targeted by the regime right now, given what they've said about Canada?

Everyone could be targetted. I mean, we as Chinese-Canadians, we are in a very awkward situation now. Ethnically, I'm Chinese, so it is embarrassing to have a Chinese ambassador to Canada saying they will do some harm to Chinese people living in Hong Kong, whether I am Canadian or not. So they're saying they want to do something bad to their own people.

I don't dislike China. I think it's a great country with a great civilization. But the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, the way they treat their own people, is very questionable.

And that's why [former Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping promised the two systems until 2047. But now we are short-changed by 27 years.

Chin, centre, and Claudia Mo, centre right, take part in a Sing4DemocracyHK protest outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on June 26, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

Can I just ask you, finally, do you think there will be many people in Hong Kong … the activists, will they be seeking asylum? Do you think they will ask to be refugees to Canada?

I don't think there will be a massive exodus. But in terms of persecution, yes, definitely. Those people living in Hong Kong, whether they are Hong Kong permanent ID card holders or anyone in Hong Kong now, their situation is the same as if they were in mainland China. There's no difference. No doubt about it.

Will you ever leave Hong Kong? Do you think that's something that you might have to do?

Besides my investment business in hedge funds and all my other hedges, I'm a current affairs writer, a commentator. I think I want to wait until they put a gunpoint at someone's head; and I think that would be the time that we all should leave.

And if they shut down, for instance, Apple Daily or some of the internet radio, or they arrest a lot of full-time political commentators, that's the time I think a lot of people should leave, and then the whole world should talk with the CCP and confront with them in a forceful way.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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