Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to welcome our witnesses and thank them for that presentation. I confess in all sincerity—and I do not say this pejoratively—that I was expecting a statement that was a little more syrupy and full of generalities, having heard that Chinese authorities must be following the appearance this morning very attentively. So my thanks to you for your presentation.
Just now, a comparison was made between the difficulties that Canada is currently experiencing with the People’s Republic of China and the difficulties that other western democracies could be experiencing with the same country. I am not sure that this is a good basis for comparison.
Traditionally, in fact, Canada has developed excellent relations with the People’s Republic of China more quickly than other western democracies. This may be because of the influence of a man like Norman Bethune, because of the food aid that you mentioned in your presentation, or because of the involvement of the father of the current Prime Minister. Canada's relations with the People’s Republic of China have always been excellent, until the unfortunate episode involving the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, which made Canada the battlefield for two superpowers in their negotiations with each other.
The American government’s involvement seems interesting to me. Whatever the good intentions, the Americans always first and foremost defend their own interests, not ours, in the negotiations that they are currently conducting with China. As a consequence, I believe that they have used Canada for their own interests by demanding that Meng Wanzhou be arrested and extradited to the United States. President Trump confirmed as much a few days ago when he stated that all that would be needed to drop the demand to extradite Meng Wanzhou is an agreement with China. That highlights the difficulty in which we find ourselves at the moment.
I am going to ask my questions all at once, because I know that they keep track of our time.
You emphasize that the Communist Party’s control over China as a state is constantly increasing. This despite the fact that Canada has modified its traditional position towards China, a position that always focussed on the question of human rights. During the 1990s, Canada decided to put more emphasis on the development of trade relations. That approach had considerable success, as you mentioned. But we can clearly see that it had very little positive effect on the human rights situation.
Given the hold that the Communist Party has on China as a state, let me first ask you this question. Are Canada’s relations limited to China as a state or are we also trying to develop relations with the Communist Party?
My second question is about the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. Given that she is accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran, sanctions that Canada does not even apply, what justified that arrest? I know that the matter is now before the courts and that unfortunately it is no longer possible to respond politically, which immediately rules out the possibility of a prisoner exchange. Such an exchange would damage Canada’s assertion that we are governed by the rule of law, not to mention that it would invite any other country in the world to imprison Canadians in that kind of manoeuvre.
How do you explain the impact of having no Canadian ambassador in Beijing for those months? Does it not prove to the Chinese authorities that, basically, the arrest of the two Michaels is not that important for the Canadian government, which has left the ambassador’s residence vacant for several months during this crisis?