Originally published at Hill Times
Why I stand with Hong Kong & why all Canadians should too
Canadians’ press freedom, politics, and education are threatened by the authoritarian overreach of Beijing, writes Alex Lee of Alliance Canada Hong Kong.
The world has been mesmerized with the scenes from Hong Kong’s protests. The shocking footage of police brutality is juxtaposed alongside scenes of strength and bravery against the threats, violence, and authoritarianism of China’s Communist Party. The Communist Party threatens not only the freedom and security of Hong Kongers, but of Canadians and around the world.
Hong Kong matters to Canadians, not only because it is a global financial centre and trading hub, or that there are more Canadians there (roughly 300,00) than in Windsor, Ont., or Saskatoon. (Both Canadian cities have a population of under 300,000.) Hong Kong is also on the front lines of a global stealth war waged by the Communist Party—a war that Canadians are a part of, whether we realize it or not. As per David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, the party is “the greatest threat to human freedom on the planet.”
In the past two years alone, the Chinese government has kidnapped Canadian citizens, threatened punitive measures against Canada, conducted widespread industrial espionage against Canadian firms, and marshalled attacks on students in Canadian university campuses. Canadians’ press freedom, politics, and education are threatened by the authoritarian overreach of Beijing.
There is a more personal reason why Hong Kong matters. I grew up in Toronto during the 1990s, when thousands of Hong Kong families, fearful of their city’s 1997 return to Chinese control, immigrated to Canada. These immigrants and their children became my cherished childhood friends, and remain as such today.
The woman shot in the eye by a Hong Kong police officer could easily have been Ellie, the first friend I made in kindergarten at a Toronto-area Christian Academy. When riot police indiscriminately beat passengers on the Hong Kong metro, one of the victims could have been Edward, who moved to Canada at seven years old and was delighted when he saw his first snowfall.
The fact that Ellie and Edward grew up Canadian is an accident of history. They could just have easily been harmed as a result of Hong Kong indiscriminate police brutality. When I see students courageously defending their home, supported by an army of parents and community members, I see them as no different from Canadians. They are standing up for the values enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedom. And, as Canadians, we should stand with them.
Ottawa is belatedly waking up. Senators Leo Housakos and Thanh Hai Ngo are introducing a motion calling for Magnitsky sanctions on officials of both Hong Kong and China who violate human rights, justice, and the rule of law. These should be applied not only in regards to Hong Kong, but the genocide and internment of over one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. We have not hesitated in applying Magnitsky sanctions against many other countries, and China should be no exception.
China’s ambassador, Cong Peiwu, threatened our government twice against such sanctions, saying that there would be “very firm countermeasures.” We must not bow to these threats.
The Senate is not the only legislative body taking action. An increasing number of MPs are speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities and interference in Canadian affairs. And a newly created parliamentary special committee will probe the increasingly strained Canada-China relationship.
Although all Liberals voted against the committee’s creation in December, a Liberal MP told me privately that they, and some of their colleagues, were supportive of the motion. And thankfully so: defending human rights, national security, and combatting foreign interference must not be partisan issues. Parliament is taking action, and our leaders are unifying against the threat from China’s Communist Party. Belatedly, we’re all beginning to stand with Hong Kong, as they have stood by us. Canadians, Hong Kongers, and the world will be better for it.