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University of British Columbia event looks at impact of Canada-China FTA on human rights in Tibet

May 22, 2018

Canada Tibet Committee, May 18, 2018- In partnership with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Himalaya Program, the Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) hosted a workshop on May 18, 2018 exploring human rights implications of an eventual Canada-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Tibet.

The Canada-China FTA is currently in extended feasibility phase. Announcement of the launch of formal negotiations is expected at any time. 

Thirty participants heard presentations from a panel which included: Tsering Shakya (Canadian Research Chair in Religion and Contemporary Society in Asia at the Institute for Asian Research, Himalaya Program Speaker Series & Language Program Coordinator at UBC); Pitman Potter (Professor of Law and Director of Chinese Legal Studies at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC); Michael Buckley (Canadian author specializing in the Himalayan region and Southeast Asia); and Kunchok Yaklha (Researcher Coordinator at CTC). The event was facilitated by UBC Himalaya Program's Professor Sara Shneiderman.

Workshop participants looked at the Canada-China FTA through a human rights lens, with attention to Tibet as a case example. The discussion considered how increased trade between Canada and China could potentially affect the human rights of Tibetans, and ended with the speakers and the audience proposing possible responses to those impacts.

Potter said, “[Canada should] deal with China as it is, not what we would like to be. Read what the PRC regime says and pay attention to what it does, in Tibet and generally.” He further added that Canada is diminished as a country and society by tolerating, complicity in human rights abuses elsewhere.” 


Shakya warned that China signs international human rights treaties not because it wants to uphold those principles but to obstruct criticism of China. 

“China’s strongest claim is economic progress. There has indeed been an increase but Tibet still remains at the bottom of all social index measures,” added Shakya. 

A report summarizing workshop presentations, including the previous workshop held at the University of Ottawa, will be available in coming weeks. Outcomes of the two workshops will inform a final publication including recommendations for the Government of Canada. That publication is expected in the fall of 2018.


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