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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Harper erred on Olympics, Dalai Lama, Chrétien says

August 20, 2008

Kirk Makin
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
August 18, 2008

QUEBEC -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper has short-sightedly risked
relations with China by failing to attend the Olympic games and going
overboard in honouring Tibet's Dalai Lama, former Prime Minister Jean
Chrétien said Monday.

Speaking to a Canadian Bar Association gathering, Mr. Chrétien said
the missteps are indicative of a government that naively fails to
understand that the Chinese government has made enormous strides in
recent years -- and that China has a long "collective memory" when it
comes to international slights.

Canadian trade missions that once attracted thousands of people have
been reduced to crowds of three hundred -- most of them Canadians,
Mr. Chrétien told a CBA breakfast meeting.

"But the last meeting I went to, there was 300 people -- and most of
them were Canadian," he said. "You know, they have a collective
memory there that is very important."

Mr. Chrétien said that Canada has to keep in mind that it is too
small a global player to hector the Chinese or try to hurt them with boycotts.

"We have to live with reality," he said. "It's 1.3-billion people,
and I'm telling you that they are moving fast. You think that Canada
is very important in the world? I remember when I was going to China
... the press saying: 'Mr. Chrétien, you have to tell the president
of China to do this and do that.'

"Oh really?" Mr. Chrétien continued. "You want me to the tell the
president of a country of 1.3 billion people you should do this and
do that, but I don't dare to say what to do to the premier of
Saskatchewan? You have to put things in perspective."

Speaking to reporters afterward Mr. Chrétien continued his fusillade:
"We are at the bottom of the ladder in terms of having any influence
with China," he said. "Ask any businessman who has been to China, and
he will tell you the same thing."

Mr. Chrétien said that were he still prime minister, he "would not
have hesitated for a second" to attend an Olympic games that
obviously mean so much to Chinese national pride.

He also took issue with a CBA lawyer who asked him about whether
China is likely to "remain resistant to any change" on its human
rights record in the wake of the Olympic games.

"To make a broad statement is easy," he said. "Of course, Tibet is a
problem. But Tibet has been a province for them for a long, long
time. To make the Dalai Lama an honourary citizen of Canada was not a
compliment to China."

The Dalai Lama may be a well-received religious icon in Canada, he
said, "but for them, the Dalai Lama is not a religious leader..."

"I have to tell you that when you say resistant to change, you should
have been with me in 1994 when [I] visited China. Go to China today
and you'll see there has been a hell of a lot of change," Mr.
Chrétien said. "They have improved."

He specifically defended his own record as prime minister, saying
that he made 14 trips to China and was "the first Western leader to
make a speech about human rights in public in China -- at the
University of Beijing. Some people who say I never mentioned human
rights -- they are completely wrong."

"But China is not Canada," he said: "You have to engage them. You
have to live with the reality they have. If you gave the freedom of
movement we give in Canada today, there would be 20 million people
arriving in Shanghai within a year. How do you deal with 20 million
refugees coming into one city? It's a very realistic problem."

"There is always consequences in what you do," Mr. Chrétien added.
"If you think that attacking them would be positive, what do you
gain? It is the second biggest economy in the world -- and in 50
years, it will be the biggest economy. Suddenly, you break the
bridge. It would be so easy to be there (at the Olympics)."
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