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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?"

Liberal leader cancels China trip after threatening fall election

September 3, 2009

By: THE CANADIAN PRESS
September 2, 2009

SUDBURY, Ont. - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has called off a week-long
trip to China due to his self-declared threat of a fall federal election.

Ignatieff was to leave Friday for what he'd billed as an "imperative"
international trip to Beijing and Shanghai to rebuild diplomatic relations
with the Asian economic giant.

But Liberal insiders say he spoke Wednesday morning with Canada's ambassador
to China, David Mulroney, who had been helping co-ordinate the trip, and
cancelled it for the time being. Ignatieff plans to reschedule the visit as
soon possible, said a party source.

At a news conference in Sudbury, Ont., where the party was wrapping up its
summer caucus meeting, Ignatieff insisted the trip was merely "postponed,"
not cancelled.

In the meantime, Liberal international trade critic Scott Brison will travel
to China.

Ignatieff has been sharply critical of the Harper government for what he
called "bungling" the China file, but his own sudden cancellation may well
be viewed as another snub.

Just last month, Ignatieff announced that his Liberal delegation would
travel to China with the goal of "salvaging this important historical
partnership right away."

The Liberals, in an effort to put the best face on their change of plans,
say Ignatieff stressed to Mulroney the importance of engagement with China
and the need to have China at the table at the G20 steering committee.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not visited China during his three-plus
years in power, but plans to do so later this autumn - barring an election.

That trip would mark a dramatic and speedy thaw in relations.

The prime minister declined an invitation to the opening ceremonies of last
year's Olympic Games in Beijing, and raised diplomatic hackles in 2007 when
he met the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a Tibetan separatist threat.

Tibet's spiritual leader had been named an honorary Canadian citizen.

Canada also aggressively protested the imprisonment of Chinese-Canadian
Huseyin Celil and Harper used strong language in referring to his concern
over human rights in China.

"I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values,"
Harper said in 2006 after a potential meeting with Chinese President Hu
Jintao suddenly fell through.

"They don't want us to sell out to the almighty dollar."

But in recent months, four senior Conservative cabinet ministers have
visited China, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Foreign Affairs
Minister Lawrence Cannon and International Trade Minister Stockwell Day.

All have stressed economic relations with China, an apparent return to the
previous Liberal government strategy of "constructive engagement."
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