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Former Hong Kong politician tells Trudeau to have courage in dealing with China

On China, Prime Minister should have the courage and dignity to stand up and speak out: Lau
On China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should have the courage and dignity to stand up and speak out: Lau

A former member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council had a message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to dealing with China.

“Have the courage, and the dignity, to stand up and speak out,” Emily Lau told Global News Ottawa Bureau Chief Mercedes Stephenson on Sunday’s episode of The West Block. “(If) there is one thing that China looks down on, (it’s) people who are too timid.”

Lau, who is also a prominent human rights activist, directed her comments specifically at Trudeau and said he needed to speak out against China’s abuses because China will laugh at nations who are too timid to take them on.

Over the last six months, Hong Kong has seen waves of often violent pro-democracy protests that have debilitated the special administrative region within China. The catalyst was a proposed bill that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China — a law that Hong Kong residents feared, if passed, would allow China to quash any dissent in the autonomous region.

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READ MORE: Trudeau says Canada won’t back down against ‘increasingly assertive’ China

After weeks of protests, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced the bill was dead, but it would take until September before the legislation was formally withdrawn.

By then, Lau said the protests broadened into a resistance movement against the territory’s government and Beijing, populated with demands for democratic elections.

“I certainly hope that the international community would just keep up expressing concern, urging China to exercise restraint because there’s concern that they would use the People’s Liberation Army to quell the unrest,” said Lau, who added that the less the international community speaks out against China, the less compelled the Chinese government would feel to enact democratic change.

Canada’s relationship with China has also been strained over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last December. China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians, businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, was widely interpreted as retaliation.

Hong Kong protests threaten Canadian businesses
Hong Kong protests threaten Canadian businesses

In August, Trudeau told reporters at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations event that Canada would not back down in its defence of Canadians, following months of criticism from the Chinese government for refusing to release Meng.

“As a global community, we must recognize that China is a growing power and increasingly assertive towards its place in the international order,” Trudeau said. “But make no mistake: we will always defend Canadians and Canadian interests.”

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But since Meng’s arrest, Canada has yet to take a harder line with China in the wake of Spavor and Kovrig’s detentions and China’s slapping of import controls on Canadian pork, beef and canola.

Lau also took aim at China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, who denounced a U.S. legislation aimed at sanctioning Chinese and Hong Kong officials who abuse human rights on Friday.

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Canada’s new foreign minister must figure out how to deal with China

Peiwu urged Canada to take a different action than the U.S., while also calling on Canadians to speak out against the “violent criminals” protesting in Hong Kong.

“This is your sovereignty. This is your Parliament. If you want to enact such legislation, it’s up to you,” said Lau. “If you are intimidated, not only China will look down on you, even your own people, your allies will look down on you because you have no courage.”

Lau, who accepted a public service award from the organizers of the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday on behalf of the people of Hong Kong, said it takes a lot of strength to act with courage, urging Trudeau to be confident in his leadership.

“Like everything in life, whether it’s for a prime minister or for an individual, whatever you say or do, there may be consequences,” she said. “Have the courage to say ‘yes, I will say this on behalf of my people and I’m prepared to take the consequences.'”

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