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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Eagerness for trade and respect for human rights aren't mutually exclusive

January 16, 2008

Editorial: The Montreal Gazette
9 January 2008
Vancouver Sun

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cordial meeting with the Dalai Lama last
October left the Chinese embassy in Ottawa fizzing with irritation.

But now that David Emerson, Canada's trade minister, is in Beijing on a
five-day trade mission that will also take him to Mongolia and Hong
Kong, China's bluster seems to have melted away.

In fact, Emerson had some interesting figures to report: Canadian
exports to China are rising sharply -- by 27 per cent according to new
preliminary figures. Canada has a trade deficit with China, as does
every country: In 2006 we sold about $7.66 billion worth of goods and
services to China -- wood pulp, chemicals, nickel, ores and machinery,
mainly -- but imported four-and-a-half times as much.

Look again at that list. China isn't importing any of that for pleasure;
these are materials that China's fast-developing economy needs. A spat
with Canada over the Dalai Lama reflects the sterile politics of a
repressive one-party state, while the trade growth reveals something
quite different -- a dynamic and bustling economy. Trade, unlike the
government's rhetoric, is not fully controlled from the centre, and so
better reflects reality.

Emerson says that he has heard no threats about commercial repercussions
from the Dalai Lama's visit. "I do not believe that it will
fundamentally derail the relationship."

One meeting of a working group on bilateral relations was cancelled by
China after the Dalai Lama visited, but on the other hand in Beijing
Emerson took part in the formal opening of a new commercial annex at the
Canadian embassy. Agreements on tourism and air transport remain hung
up, but they were stalled before the Dalai Lama's visit. Emerson says he
hopes for progress on those matters, too.

Meanwhile last week, Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen imprisoned in
China for life after a shoddy "trial" on terrorism charges in 2006, was
allowed to see his sister Meryem. Nobody can say what this means, but
it's clearly not a sign of Chinese intransigence.

China's campaign to portray the Dalai Lama as an outlaw to be kept in
political isolation has failed. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and
United States President George W. Bush also met him last fall; he is
respected, even revered, around the world.

Chinese claims that the Dalai Lama is the front man for "the separatist
Tibet independence forces" was a clear signal to the government of
Canada, a place where "separatist" is a word full of meaning. But
Harper, to his credit, rejected China's claim, and declared that he
would not turn his back on human rights for the sake of the "almighty

That was posturing. The real Canadian position is, or should be, that
there is no either-or choice here. Canada can and should speak plainly
and loudly about human rights matters, but can also leave companies free
to pursue contracts.

Slowly, we believe, the Chinese government will come to see that respect
for rights and eagerness to trade do not have to be mutually exclusive.
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