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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Canada, China discuss human rights

May 14, 2009

By Ben O'Hara-Byrne
Global National
May 12, 2009

BEIJING (Canwest News Service) -- Canada and
China have agreed to "engage" over the often
thorny issue of human rights, Canada’s Foreign
Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday.

The agreement came following a day of meetings
between Cannon and China’s Vice-President Xi
Jinping and Foreign Affairs Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Monday.

"What’s important here is that both parties have
decided to look at these issues as we move
forward" Cannon said "so our people will engage
with officials in the Chinese government in the very near future"

The Conservatives suspended the formal human
rights talks between the two countries in 2006
after heavily criticizing the former Liberal
government’s centrepiece of policy engagement with China as being ineffective.

But Cannon insists this is not a resurrection of
the Liberal program launched in 1997.

"I don’t like using the word human rights
dialogue" he said "I want to propose a mechanism
whereby everybody will feel comfortable as we move forward."

The agreement comes as the Conservatives push to
improve strained relations with the rising global powerhouse.

China was none too pleased with Canada’s overt
criticism of its record on human rights and
Tibet, culminating in the Prime Minister Harper’s
absence at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics.

But this spring has seen a sudden spurt in
ministerial visits with Cannon’s four-day trip to
Beijing and Shanghai coming one month after
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day spent a full week in China.

Cannon acknowledged the rocky relationship his
government has had with China during a speech
Tuesday at Beijing’s Foreign Affairs University

"Canada and China have a long-standing
relationship and, as is bound to happen with
every long-term relationship, it has gone through
ups and downs" Cannon told a roomful of students
adding Canada is committed to a "frank, friendly
and forward-looking relationship."

Liberal foreign-affairs critic Bob Rae was
brought into the room shortly after Cannon began
his speech. Rae told reporters he was pleased
with the message Cannon came to deliver.

"It’s a coming to maturity of the Harper
government" he said "I think frankly things will
improve as result of what we’ve seen in the past several months"

The Prime Minister once claimed he wouldn’t
sacrifice Canada’s values for the almighty dollar
but when asked by Chinese reporters about the
change in his government’s approach to China,
Cannon said it in fact grew out of recent a
meeting about money between Harper and Chinese President Hu Jintao

"They sat down at a meeting a few months ago to
discuss the world economic crisis and the
challenges that lay ahead and I got the distinct
feeling from the leadership that meeting went off very well’

Cannon also expressed Canada’s sympathies for the
victims and survivors of the Sichuan earthquake.

"Remembering last year’s devastating earthquake
in Sichuan, I also expressed my deepest sympathy
to the Chinese people on behalf of all Canadians."

Cannon said Canadians were the second largest
contributor to the response effort handing over
$72 million in humanitarian assistance.

The Chinese government extended an invitation to
Prime Minister Harper to visit China for the
first time since he came to power more than three
years ago. He is expected to be in the region for
the annual APEC summit in Singapore this November.
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