Who knew the Chinese government was so woke. As part of its spat with Ottawa over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last month, it has accused Canada of “Western egotism and white supremacy" for criticizing of the detentions of two Canadian citizens in China.
The accusation of a colonial double standard was made by China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, in an op-ed in The Hill Times last week. It was the latest salvo fired by a Chinese government that is isolated in the international community over the arrests of the two Canadians.
The United States, Britain, Germany, France, the European Union and Australia have all either condemned or expressed concern about the imprisonments of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Both were arrested on suspicion “of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security," as Mr. Lu put it.
Their detentions are seen as obvious retaliation for the Dec. 1 arrest of Ms. Meng as she changed planes in Vancouver’s airport. Her arrest was the result of a request for extradition from the United States, where she has been charged with bank fraud.
Ms. Meng is the deputy chair and chief financial officer of Huawei, the telecoms giant that is considered by many countries, Canada included, as a potential security threat because of its well established links to the Chinese government. Some countries, the United States chief among them, have banned the use of Huawei technology in sensitive public infrastructure; Canada may impose limitations, as well.
Mr. Lu believes it is a double standard for Canada and its Western allies to criticize China for imprisoning two Canadians while at the same time defending Ms. Meng’s arrest. “It seems that, to some people, only Canadian citizens shall be treated in a humanitarian manner and their freedom deemed valuable, while Chinese people do not deserve that.”
He also called Ms. Meng’s arrest “groundless” and “illegal." But he and his government can make no case for that.
Ms. Meng was arrested as the result of an extradition request from a United States court. The arrest warrant was issued by the Supreme Court of British Columbia after it was convinced by justice officials of the urgency of the matter, and that Ms. Meng’s rights, as defined by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would not be violated.
Ms. Meng is now out on bail and living in one of her Vancouver homes. She and her lawyers will have numerous opportunities to challenge the extradition request in court, and to appeal any decision. The entire process will take place in open court, in front of the public and the news media.
Contrary to Mr. Lu’s claims, her arrest is the very essence of legality under international laws and treaties. It is also wrong for Mr. Lu to suggest that Canada has failed to show “concern or sympathy” for Ms. Meng’s plight. Concern and sympathy are built into a Canadian legal system that assumes her innocence and will ensure that her rights are protected.
As for the retaliatory arrests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, Mr. Lu argues that “China’s competent authorities took compulsory measures in accordance with the law.” But once again, he can back no such claim. There have been no public court appearances, and the two men have been denied lawyers and regular consular access. They are said to be detained in rooms in which the lights are constantly on, a form of torture.
If Canada is expressing concern about its two imprisoned citizens while remaining relatively sanguine about the fate of Ms. Meng, that is not a double standard but, rather, a concern for one single standard: the rule of law. This basic humanitarian principle governs every aspect of Ms. Meng’s predicament, but is completely absent from those of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.
It is this same single standard that has prompted Canada to speak out regularly about the mistreatment of Chinese people at the hands of their government, whether it be the hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims who have been arbitrarily arrested and sent to "re-education centres,” or the residents of Hong Kong who feel the ever-tightening noose of Beijing’s thought police.
The only people who don’t believe that Chinese citizens, or anyone else for that matter, should “be treated in a humanitarian manner and their freedom deemed valuable” are those working in the government Mr. Lu represents.