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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Editorial: Canada's PM makes the right move by skipping ceremonies

August 8, 2008

St. Catharines Standard (Canada)
August 5, 2008

Months ago, at the height of the international furor over China's
treatment of Tibetan protesters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said
he had no plans to attend the opening ceremonies.

And it appears he's sticking to his guns -- unlike other
international leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and
U. S. President George W. Bush, who'd earlier hinted they might not
attend, but now will.

Harper's absence says much about Canada's stance on human rights abuses

Harper has already taken heat for this. Liberal foreign affairs
critic Bob Rae has framed Harper's planned absence as a "rebuff" of
China. Rae and others repeat the nostrum that the best way to improve
human rights in China is to engage -- as though Canada is doing
something different.

Nonsense. We are doing nothing of the kind. Canada is sending 331
athletes to these games -- a much larger complement than the 200-plus
who competed for us in Athens in 2004.

The Canadian government will also be fully represented at the opening
ceremonies Friday by Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson and
Secretary of State for Sport Helena Guergis. Sending two ministers,
one of whom is among the most senior members of the cabinet, cannot
be considered a slight.

Is Harper sending a message by personally staying away? Likely. But
it's a message entirely consistent with Canadian values of supporting
democracy and human rights around the world. It's also entirely
consistent with a policy of engaging the Chinese. If you want to send
a message about human rights, you must have a relationship -- but you
must also communicate your views. If Harper were to change his tune
now, he'd be doing one, but not the other.

Here's what Harper said some months ago: "I would continue to urge
China to respect human rights and peaceful protests not just in Tibet
but everywhere. I would also encourage the government of China to
understand that its growing wealth, its growing importance in the
world and of course the profile of the Olympics will put a greater
and greater spotlight on its record in this regard."

Whether or not anyone in China is listening, that was well put. It
still holds up.
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