Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
As the party that received the most votes in the last election, the Conservative Party is working hard to lead constructively in this minority Parliament and use its increased clout to drive conversation and solutions on vital challenges facing this country. One of those is the Canada-China relationship. Recognizing that our existing standing committees often have a full agenda, are designed to focus on specific individual policy areas, and very likely will not start their operations until well into the new year, we believe that this Parliament must strike a special committee right now to study all aspects of the Canada-China relationship, and to study them on an ongoing basis. Of particular importance to me would be the way that Canada can be a stronger voice on the world stage for human rights and to counter the efforts of China's government throughout its repressive political model around the world.
China's current political model is straight out of George Orwell's book, 1984, with constant surveillance and a system of social credit where one's every action is monitored, and the ability to do any basic activity is dependent on a social score assigned by the party. All activity, all investment, all speech, all opinion, everything, is intended to be under the thumb of the state. The state does not recognize the bounds of the law or commitment, including commitments to other countries.
The Prime Minister has expressed admiration for China's so-called basic dictatorship and his hand-picked ambassador led a company which was heavily dependent on contracts from Chinese state-owned companies. I wonder if Dominic Barton and our Prime Minister read 1984 during their childhood and thought that it sounded like a great place to live.
China's repressive political system is not what the Chinese people want. It is not what the people of other Asian and African nations want, even though citizens of other nations face the increasing imposition of Chinese government-backed actors on their countries. Orwellian authoritarianism is not what Canadians want. It is not what almost anyone wants. Therefore, we must stand together against this oppressive political model. Our party stands unapologetically for the advancement of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This is in our interests and is reflective of our values.
I would like to highlight some of the key problems we see today which necessitate the engagement of this Parliament through the creation of this special committee. I will comment on the situation of Uighurs, Tibetans, Christians, Hong Kongers, students, Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioners and people in neighbouring and regional countries.
The Chinese government is detaining Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. This is a further step in a long-running effort to destroy their culture and their faith. Every Ramadan, Uighur Muslims have faced repression of their right to fast in an attempt to impede this important expression of personal piety.
Under the Liberal government, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board put over $48 million of Canadian pension money into Hikvision and Dahua, companies that are working closely with China's military and playing a significant role in Uighur imprisonment. When this was raised in question period earlier this year by my colleague from Calgary Shepard, the government said that the pension board's job is to focus on return on investment, but I believe that the government should hold our pension board to basic standards of morality.
As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, I cannot accept the government's blasé attitude toward our pension fund's participation in the construction of mass detention and concentration camps in our own time. This is precisely the kind of Islamophobia that the government should be seized with.
We are seeing the escalating persecution of Tibetans, including the continuation of a long-standing policy of repression of religious, cultural and linguistic freedoms. One of the latest developments is the effort by China's government to control the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Essentially, the atheist, materialist, Marxist government purports to be able to determine the Dalai Lama's succession by knowing and identifying his reincarnation. This would be comical if it was not deadly serious. Indeed, we have seen this before with the real Panchen Lama being disappeared and the Chinese government advancing its own candidate instead. This is one of many serious violations of religious freedom that we see in Tibet.
We must not neglect the escalating devastating persecution of Christians in China. Violations of religious freedom can take two predominant forms. One form is the old Maoist way of trying to explicitly eradicate religion. The more common current model is where religious movements are allowed to maintain the external ceremonial aspects of religion but are required to always conform their teaching to the state doctrine. Essentially, they say that it is fine to be a Christian as long as the teachings and attributes of Xi Jinping are put ahead of the teachings and attributes of Christ. Christian movements that refuse this conformist approach face repression.
We see repression of individual believers as well as the violent destruction of churches, such as the Golden Lampstand Church, and also the destruction of houses of worship for other faith communities. Efforts to eradicate religion and to co-opt and control religion are a serious violation of fundamental human rights. They are unacceptable in China, in Canada or anywhere else. Our defence of religious freedom must always include the freedoms of Christians, an aspect often left out.
Let us talk about the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong entered into the one country, two systems framework in 1997. The Government of China has repeatedly violated this agreement in so many respects, undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong. People in Hong Kong have highlighted to me how police there seem to have taken on the attributes of mainland military police instead of Hong Kong's own separate police force.
Protestors in Hong Kong are concerned about violation of the one country, two systems framework and have five concrete demands: the withdrawal of the extradition bill; stop labelling protestors as rioters; drop charges against protestors; conduct an independent inquiry into police behaviour; and implement genuine universal suffrage for the legislative council and the chief executive. We support these objectives and especially we wish to highlight the importance of meaningful universal suffrage.
Many of Hong Kong's legislators are elected in so-called functional constituencies, whereby essentially a few insider companies get to pick the legislators. On this side of the House, we stand with the people of Hong Kong and we support universal suffrage. I asked the minister twice today if she supports universal suffrage and real democracy in Hong Kong. She talked about the right to protest, but she refused twice to answer my question on the issue of universal suffrage.
I have many concerns about the state of freedom of speech at universities in Canada, but this challenge is made significantly worse when foreign governments act to undermine freedom of speech on Canadian campuses. The dependence of many universities on the revenue associated with international students and the dependence of academics studying China on visa access to China are points of significant vulnerability.
When a well-known Tibetan student, Chemi Lhamo, was elected as president of the U of T Scarborough student union, she faced an orchestrated campaign of harassment. When a student group called McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice at McMaster University organized an event to highlight Uighur abuses, efforts were made to disrupt the event. The Chinese consulate in Toronto praised this action, saying, “We strongly support the just and patriotic actions of Chinese students.” There was no response from Canada to this gross abuse of our sovereignty by the consulate.
More recently, ahead of a visit to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, members of the Carleton International Relations Society were asked not to raise controversial topics.
University students must embrace a role that they have traditionally occupied as thoughtful provocateurs for justice. We think of the freedom riders of the civil rights movements or the students who faced down tanks during the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square.
University campuses and the presence there of many international students from China should create opportunities for free and open dialogue, dialogue which, when free and open, will lead to the advancement of freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law. However, this dialogue cannot happen if universities and student groups are subject to foreign pressure and manipulation. Preserving the integrity of our academic institutions is something in which there is a pressing national interest, and I hope this special committee would specifically take on the situation at our universities involving Canadian and international students who are studying there.
Taiwan, a free Chinese democracy, is a beacon of hope in the region. Taiwan is the example of all that China could be, a free and open society which preserves and celebrates China's ancient and beautiful civilization. However, unfortunately the Chinese government increasingly tries to interfere in the domestic affairs of Taiwan. Last year, Air Canada caved to a demand by the Chinese government to list Taiwan as part of its territory, with no response from Canada.
I have spoken frequently about the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China and particularly about the issue of organ harvesting and trafficking, which requires urgent action.
Finally, the colonial policy of the Chinese government throughout Africa and Asia is a pressing concern of many people in those countries and many Canadians from various backgrounds. It is ironic that China's government is actually using a similar colonial approach that colonial European powers used in China in the past. The Chinese government is imposing multi-decade leases on vital infrastructure, which gives it ongoing leverage over internal affairs.
The Liberal government, by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Chinese government-controlled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, is not only failing to oppose this program; it is actively funding it. The government's response to our proposal of a cross-cutting committee focusing specifically on this problem is to suggest that parliamentarians or the House are ill-suited to respond to this problem. I believe that the government is ill-suited to respond to this challenge, and that is why parliamentary scrutiny is required.
We reject any admiration about basic dictatorship and we believe in the principle of parliamentary scrutiny over the executive. Thankfully, in a minority Parliament where the government got only one-third of the votes, we as the opposition have the power to assert that principle of parliamentary sovereignty and we will.