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View Garnett Genuis Profile
Welcome to meeting number three of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. Pursuant to the motion adopted on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, the committee is meeting on its study of Canada-China relations.
Unless there are any objections from committee members, I'm going to dispense with some of the technical information about how these meetings proceed in a hybrid format and proceed directly to welcoming the consul general of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao, Mr. Jeff Nankivell.
We are having a technical problem with interpretation at the moment. Normally we would have five minutes for the statement, but we'll have effectively five minutes for both official languages. Because we're still resolving these technical issues, we will have to briefly suspend the meeting after the opening statement. We will reconvene the meeting once interpretation is functioning for the question and answer.
Mr. Nankivell, thank you for your service to Canada and for your flexibility today especially.
Please proceed.
Jeff Nankivell
View Jeff Nankivell Profile
Jeff Nankivell
2020-11-02 11:22
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, Hong Kong is home to a large Canadian community. The ties with Canada are broad and deep.
In the past 18 months, this city of such importance to Canada has experienced dramatic political, social and legal change. Throughout this period, the Government of Canada, including our team of 150 staff at the Consulate General of Canada, has worked with a particular focus in two areas.
One is raising Canada's concerns about threats to the integrity of Hong Kong's institutions, human rights and rule of law under the one country, two systems framework. The other is attending to the well-being of Hong Kong's huge community of Canadian citizens to ensure that their safety, freedom and ability to prosper are maintained.
The committee has already heard extensively about Hong Kongers standing up for their human rights during seven months of extraordinary demonstrations in 2019. You've also heard how the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by China’s National People's Congress in a secretive process fundamentally at odds with common law principles.
Canada and other countries have noted that the law contravenes Hong Kong's Basic Law, China's treaty obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong's commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The committee has heard about deeply concerning aspects of the new law from leading legal experts. The Government of Canada shares their concerns, and I would be happy to elaborate.
In response to the imposition and implementation of the national security law, Canada has taken a number of actions, including the following.
First, we updated our travel advice for Hong Kong to warn of the new risk of arbitrary detention and possible removal to mainland China on national security grounds. Each time this advice is updated, we email the Canadians on our consular registration list and publicize the advice through our consulate Facebook page, which now has over 49,000 followers, and through extensive presentations to Canadian community organizations.
Second, Canada was the first of nine countries to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Third, Canada’s export controls were amended on July 7 to treat the export of sensitive goods to Hong Kong in the same manner as goods destined for mainland China.
Fourth, working closely with like-minded countries in Hong Kong, in Beijing, across capitals and at the United Nations, Canada has issued a series of statements on Hong Kong, at the level of minister or higher. There's been at least one such high-level statement every month from April through August, and again in October.
Jeff Nankivell
View Jeff Nankivell Profile
Jeff Nankivell
2020-11-02 11:27
We have also consistently raised these concerns directly, in private and public meetings, with representatives of the Hong Kong government and with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Hong Kong and Ottawa. In doing so, we have at every opportunity also called for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and clemency for Robert Schellenberg, and have questioned publicly whether such arbitrary actions in mainland China could happen in Hong Kong under the National Security Law.
We continue to engage with local civil society organizations, political leaders, activists, legal experts, academics and journalists to gather their views on the local situation. We also continue to work to advance Canadian human rights priorities and values through local programming, as we have done for many years.
Consulate General staff have also attended key court hearings of pro-democracy activists and political leaders, in coordination with colleagues from the European Union.
In terms of engaging and assisting Canadians, I would add that since the outset of last year’s period of civil unrest, we have undertaken a range of actions to address the risks faced by Canadians. We provided direct consular assistance to Canadians. Since June 2019, our team has responded to 204 requests for consular service arising from the civil unrest, ranging from simple enquiries to visits to Canadians in hospital and in prison.
As the civil unrest became widespread in July 2019, and with the assistance of Global Affairs Canada's emergency-planning experts, the Consulate General built on our evergreen emergency-response plans to prepare detailed plans for new contingencies that could arise. We also brought in staff from around the world on temporary assignments to provide surge support during the peak period of the civil unrest.
We regularly advised Canadians in Hong Kong on the possibility of large-scale street clashes, and shared those messages proactively through our registration of Canadians abroad and social media channels. Throughout this 18-month period, and with a renewed push since the advent of the National Security Law, we have engaged with the Canadian business community, both with individual companies and with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to share perspectives on the evolving situation and to see how our trade commissioner service could be of assistance to them.
I look forward to providing greater detail on these and any other issues of interest to the committee.
I thank you for inviting me.
Angela Gui
View Angela Gui Profile
Angela Gui
2020-10-26 12:10
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am grateful for this committee's concern for the situation in Hong Kong, and I feel honoured to be invited to give evidence here today. I'm the daughter of Swedish national Gui Minhai, one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who were abducted and detained in mainland China in late 2015. In the five years since my father was kidnapped while on holiday in Thailand, I have worked to urge governments to take more decisive action in demanding his release and to prevent similar extraterritorial abductions from happening in the future.
My father has been kidnapped by Chinese government agents three times. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence. After being taken into custody on the Chinese mainland, he was held incommunicado with no access to legal assistance. He was forced to refuse contact with Swedish consular officials, effectively bypassing the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and he was also forced to confess to crimes on Chinese television.
In October 2017, he disappeared again for six days after Chinese authorities claimed that he had been released. He resurfaced in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, under a type of residential surveillance in which he was allowed to communicate with me but was heavily monitored and not allowed to leave China. In our conversations, it also became clear that he had been subjected to torture.
My father was kidnapped again in January 2018, this time while travelling on a train with Swedish diplomats. Since then, he has again been held incommunicado. In February this year, he was sentenced in secret to 10 years in prison for illegally providing intelligence overseas. It has not been explained what specific acts this refers to. Chinese authorities further claim that my father has renounced his Swedish citizenship and applied to have his Chinese citizenship reinstated. As such, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been refused information even on his health status. I have not spoken to him since early 2018 and have no way of knowing if he is still alive.
My father's case is increasingly described as a precursor to China's repression of freedoms in Hong Kong through its recent national security law. Though in violation of Hong Kong's own Basic Law, as well as international law, this legislation is the Chinese government's way of ensuring that what happened to my father can now legally be done to anyone in Hong Kong.
Article 38 of the law indicates that it is intended to extend beyond the territory of Hong Kong to apply to anyone, anywhere. The national security law has institutionalized China's extraterritorial abduction of political dissidents. This suggests to me that while the efforts of countries like Canada and Sweden to respond to Beijing's human rights violations have been important, they sadly have not been enough.
Canada is home to a large Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese community, and I wonder how many of these people feel forced, like I do, to take extra security precautions daily in order to protect themselves from Chinese government harassment.
To honour its commitment to human rights then, Canada should make sure that its citizens and residents can safely express their opinions on China without having to fear harassment, intimidation or abduction. This is especially important, as Hong Kong activists are relocating to Canada for fear of their safety. Canada should also urgently move to protect Canadian citizens in Hong Kong whose health and safety was threatened by the Chinese ambassador last week. As we have seen in my father's case, China now claims the authority to unilaterally change foreign citizens' nationality, completely undermining the protection that foreign citizenship used to provide.
In taking these steps, Canada will set an important standard for other countries to follow and provide a basis for increased trans-national co-operation in holding Beijing accountable. To prevent what happened to my father from becoming the norm, the international community must act more swiftly and with more coordination than it hitherto has.
I therefore also want to call on Canada to work with Sweden and other countries by clearly and publicly demanding Beijing's adherence to international law by stating their refusal to co-operate with extraterritorial application of the national security law, as well as by demanding my father's release. Since condemnations have not been effective in the past, it is of paramount importance that demands also articulate consequences. I understand that reconsidering the relationship to China is not a decision to be taken lightly. However as extraterritorial abductions of political dissidents have become normalized, it ought to be a price that we are willing to pay.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I would welcome any questions that you may have.
Nathan Law
View Nathan Law Profile
Nathan Law
2020-10-26 12:15
Thank you very much, Chairman Regan.
It is my honour to be able to testify in front of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
As we all are aware, the Hong Kong we used to know is gone now. After a year of protests and a dreadful response from the authority, the polarity of the Hong Kong government has dropped to a historical low, and the confidence of the Hong Kong people in the one country, two systems ruling framework has basically vanished.
While the situation looks grim for Hong Kong, the Beijing authority has made it worse by circumventing all of our consultation and legislative processes to impose the notorious national security law, which was, to us, a de facto final nail in the coffin of the one country, two systems—
Nathan Law
View Nathan Law Profile
Nathan Law
2020-10-26 12:16
Thank you so much.
With the draconian national security law, Beijing has the arbitrary power to detain, arrest and prosecute any political activists or dissidents they don't like. Carrie Lam says that the law is only intended to target violent protesters. That is a blatant lie. The sole purpose of the law is to quash our freedom of expression, any desires for political change and the right to protest. It has created widespread psychological terror and fear across the city.
Up to now, over 30 people have been arrested under the law. Indeed, the international media has covered the arrest of my dearest friend, fellow activist Agnes Chow, and the democratic veteran Jimmy Lai, who runs a pro-democracy news outlet in Hong Kong. High-profile activists like them were arrested as retaliation for the sanctioning by the U.S. government aimed at 11 Hong Kong and China officials who are responsible for the human rights violations in Hong Kong.
Arrests, however, are not limited to those with high profiles. Ordinary youngsters have also been arrested simply for possessing flags or stickers with protest slogans during arbitrary stop and searches in the city. These cases demonstrate the use of the law to terrorize and deprive the Hong Kong people at all levels of the most fundamental rights, and as a legal weapon for the Beijing government.
Because of these examples and the abusing of such a vaguely defined law, a sense of fear and white terror has permeated our entire society. Some of my friends are actively disengaging from political life and deleting posts on Facebook due to their fear of being prosecuted under the national security law. Academics are self-censoring and eliminating research topics that may be considered as crossing the red line. Reporters are worried that they are no longer able to cover certain sensitive topics.
This does not stop at Hong Kong. Recent reports have also indicated signs of academics and students in western academic institutions engaging in self-censorship, either for fear of danger when they visit Hong Kong or China, or due to strong funding ties to CCP-linked donors. Hong Kong is simply the first domino of the free world that has been knocked over by an impending avalanche of autocratic influence.
As one of the most respected democracies in the world, Canada has always been a place that Hong Kong people interact with and treasure. When Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, a wave of Hong Kongers came to Canada in search of a safe home that shared our love for liberty, humanity and democracy. As the government crackdown intensified with the national security law, the Hong Kong people were grateful for the swift responses by the Canadian government to safeguard our freedoms, including halting the export of military-use goods and the extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Your young talent scheme also came as a lifeline for the people who face imminent dangers of political persecution at home, are in desperate need of protection, and are looking for a new place to call home.
We need to stop fantasizing that the Chinese Communist Party will become a strategic partner with liberal democracies. History proves that they only abuse the openness of our system and erode it by whatever means they can imagine. The democracies need to join hands and work together to safeguard liberal values and stop China from spreading its ideology and control over other regions.
Therefore, I would like to recommend the following policy directions to curb the influence of the Chinese authoritarianism. For the short-term tactics, Magnitsky sanctions against human rights abusers, particularly those in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, should be in place. Furthermore, banning Huawei from participation in 5G, just like other countries have done, and developing a coherent asylum and refugee policy for Hong Kongers fleeing persecution are much needed.
In the medium to long-term, we should be engaging with like-minded allies throughout the world to develop a strategy to push back against China's human rights abuses, hostage diplomacy and coercive trade practices; develop closer economic, political and security ties with Taiwan; and introduce legislation to combat foreign agents of influence in Canada, particularly targeting the United Front's activities, which is also crucial to do.
We hope that the democratic communities around the world can stand together and protect our shared democratic values.
Thank you so much.
Nathan Law
View Nathan Law Profile
Nathan Law
2020-10-26 12:42
Yes, indeed under the Magnitsky act, we are all hoping that these sanctions do apply to the Chinese officials. For now it isn't the case. We're trying to put forward that enactment in order to really hold these Chinese officials accountable. I believe a similar sanctions mechanism will possibly be in place by the EU in the future. I hope it will also apply to Chinese officials with regard to the Uighur concentration camps and other human rights violations happening in China.
In terms of what's upcoming in the future, the U.K. government has been sorting out the BN(O) scheme, which allows millions of Hong Kong people to come to the U.K. and get citizenship in the long term. This is seen as a really beneficial scheme for the Hong Kong people. For me, I'm actively interacting with the government to expand that to the young people who are most in need. There are other mechanisms, such as high scrutiny of Chinese enterprises in the U.K. and other policies that really curb the influence of the Chinese Communist Party overseas. I think these are directions in which the U.K government has been moving, and I hope the other European countries can also shift in that direction.
View Michael Chong Profile
Thank you.
Mr. Law, you were elected to the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. What impact has the absence of pro-democracy candidates had on the functioning of LegCo and on Hong Kongers' view of LegCo?
Nathan Law
View Nathan Law Profile
Nathan Law
2020-10-26 12:51
After a series of disqualifications of the Cantonese running for the council and parliamentarians over the past number of years, I believe that the Hong Kong people already view the legislative council as merely a puppet council of the Chinese government because the Hong Kong people cannot enjoy the right of electing their representation fairly.
For me, yes indeed, its legitimacy is largely challenged and Hong Kong people believe less and less in the change in the system, and that is why protests broke out so massively last year because they stopped believing in participating in the system that had made a concrete change.
View Michael Chong Profile
Thank you.
I remember sitting around the cabinet table in 2006 when we had to evacuate thousands of Canadians from the conflict in Lebanon. I ask this question in the context of the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong. In your estimation, at what point do we see a tipping point where there could be a mass exodus of Hong Kongers seeking to leave the special administrative region?
Nathan Law
View Nathan Law Profile
Nathan Law
2020-10-26 12:52
I think for now at least it isn't likely to happen in the foreseeable future because Beijing still does not target massive numbers of people. But other than an exit plan, concrete help for those individuals in Hong Kong, Canadian Hong Kongers, is crucial so we should develop plans in that direction.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Yes, Mr. Chair, I would. Hopefully, if we take an extra 15 minutes, we will have time for my motion and for Mr. Harris's motion. I want to make sure he has the opportunity as well. Since I have the floor, I'll move quickly.
Notice of my motion has been given. It's with respect to having a report at the end of this Hong Kong study. Just to briefly motivate this, we are dealing with urgent, unfolding events. It's important that we report on them to the House of Commons when we're finished this study. We can't wait until the end of a macrodiscussion of Canada-China relations. The ground, in terms of what's happening in Hong Kong, may shift substantially between now and that future time.
Also, everybody knows we're in a minority Parliament. Mr. Blanchet is talking about putting forward a non-confidence motion. We could be in a situation where, at any time, we could go to an election. If that happens, we won't have time to take all of this and put it into a report. I think part of the necessity for an interim report on Hong Kong is the urgency of the situation. It is also the fact that a lot of that work might just end up being lost.
I hope as a procedural matter the committee members will agree that when we finish our hearings on Hong Kong, we will take what we've learned and do our job, namely, advise Parliament, advise the government, based on what we have heard. I think providing that feedback specifically about the situation in Hong Kong will be very important.
That's the rationale for this motion.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I am predisposed to support the motion. However, Mr. Genuis's argument actually makes me more nervous about supporting it. He said he wants to do this because the ground could “shift” by the time we actually get to our major report, which means we could have an irrelevant report. I would need a clarification from him on why he thinks it would be better to have a report now, which I had been totally willing to support until he raised that argument counter to having a report now, because I don't want to look like an irrelevant parliamentarian who is making a report for the sake of making a report. That's not why I got elected to Parliament. I got elected to make a difference on public policy issues. If the ground is shifting, why wouldn't we want to make sure that we are going to do it? I'm still predisposed to support the motion, but that argument worries me.
Second, this would really fall under a point of order, Mr. Chair, as opposed to a point of debate. On a point of order, I would like you to rule on how long we will be in this portion of the meeting before we come to an end in order to hear from the witnesses who have been invited. The clerk mentioned 15 minutes, but I didn't hear from you. I think it would be fair for committee members, for our own preparation, as well as for invited witnesses to know when we will end this debate. We might have a reached a vote by then or not, but I think it would be fair for us to know that.
View Leona Alleslev Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to echo Mr. Garnett Genuis and perhaps provide some clarification based on my understanding of what he said.
We were thinking that the landscape here at home, as a result of the minority government, might change at any time. We on this committee don't want our work to be lost and not have the opportunity to put it forward for the government to consider, as they or all parties might, if by some chance we found ourselves in an election.
There's no question that committees are incredibly important. We know that this China committee is very important, which is why we brought it back and are doing this incredible study in such an intense and compressed time frame. We believe that what we are learning is of value, and that Canadian citizens want to understand what we have learned. Part of the responsibility we as parliamentarians have is to provide that information in a report that informs and advises not only the government but also the Canadian public.
I would hate for us to just do a study for the sake of a study and not be able to provide that very important feedback in terms of a report that can be used by government and the Canadian public at large on such an important topic. That is why I think there is a sense of urgency, and that is why I think there is substantive value in providing a timely and comprehensive report on this subject so that we don't miss all this great work that we've done over the last few weeks.
View Jack Harris Profile
Thank you, Chair.
I want to speak in support of this motion for none of the reasons that Ms. Alleslev just referred to. In fact, if that were the reason, I wouldn't support it. The government is the government until it isn't.
The reason I'm supporting this, contrary to our normal role of “wait until we get it all, and let's talk about the relationship between Canada and China”, is that there is a sense of urgency to some of the measures that are being proposed, particularly those that would offer assistance to people who are now affected by these changes in the relationship with Hong Kong and between Hong Kong and Beijing. That's the reason for the urgency, in my view.
We should put what we have on the table so that the government can act, and we can try to influence the course of the government's activities while it is the government. That could be for longer than people think or it could be for shorter than people think, but that has nothing to do with my support for this motion. I think we should do it because it is important, but it is an exception to the overall thrust of having a report at the end, which we are all endeavouring to do. This is an exception as a result of the urgency of the matters before us.
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