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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."

It's China that looks bad, again

December 7, 2009

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

By: Staff Writer

5/12/2009 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

CHINA carries a big stick when it comes to economic clout and trade
relationships, but as Prime Minister Stephen Harper discovered this week
on his first visit to the Celestial Empire, as the Chinese modestly
refer to themselves, they do not walk softly. In fact, they bang about
in their boots when they are annoyed about something.

They are annoyed with Mr. Harper and they have made no bones about that.
They are annoyed that it has taken him four years to get to China, that
he has been publicly critical of China's appalling human rights record,
that he declined to attend the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008,
that he has been supportive of Tibet's claim to autonomy and that he met
with the Dalai Lama in defiance of Beijing's instructions. In short, he
has been the most difficult Western leader that the Chinese Communists
have had to deal with in years.

That situation was made more uncomfortable by the fact that for years
the Chinese dictators in the Forbidden Palace had been accustomed to
more compliant Canadian prime ministers. The Liberal leaders, Pierre
Trudeau, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, who preceded Mr. Harper as prime
minister simply wanted "business as usual" with China, despite
unpleasant distractions such as the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the
suppression of free speech, the cultural genocide in Tibet and the
persecution of other non-Chinese minorities.

The Harper government has been frequently criticized by both Canadians
and Chinese for jeopardizing that carefully, liberally nurtured
relationship between the two nations -- China is, after all, the biggest
consumer market in the world.

Rather than being critical, Canadians should be proud of a government
that, for a while at least, insisted in recognizing that the Chinese are
people, too, and are as entitled to the enjoyment of human rights as
Canadians.

Now, in fact, is the time to be critical. Mr. Harper was not exactly
standing barefoot in the snows of the Great Wall of China, but he was
effectively doing penance in an effort to win a part of the China trade.
As important as that China trade can be to a recovering economy, the
principle of human rights is even more vital. It would be a pity if
Canadians and their government were to forget that now for, as Mr.
Harper once famously called it, the "almighty dollar."
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