A prominent pro-democracy activist is calling on Canada to take a stronger stance on the situation in Hong Kong following the passing of two U.S. laws on the issue.
Joshua Wong made the appeal in an email statement to Global News on Friday.
“I would appeal to leaders and politicians in Canada to stand with the protesters in Hong Kong, who are fighting for a noble cause of free election,” Wong said.
“Similar legislative initiatives like the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act should be executed in Canada to stop further human rights violations.”
The new U.S. laws include mandated sanctions on officials who carry out human rights abuses.
Wong also said he hopes Canada will consider sanctions for “those that fail to live up to European ideals of human rights.”
In an email statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada skirted questions on whether Canada will make a similar move.
“It is crucial that restraint be exercised by all sides, violence rejected, and urgent steps taken to de-escalate the situation,” the statement read. “Engagement in a process of broad-based and inclusive dialogue, involving all key stakeholders, is essential.
“Fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, are enshrined in the Basic Law and in international agreements and must continue to be upheld.”
The statement also noted that newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne raised the issue of Hong Kong protests with his Chinese counterpart during a G20 meeting in Japan last week.
The two bills signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses in Hong Kong, require an annual review of Hong Kong’s favourable trade status and prohibit the export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions.
Trump said in a statement that he signed the bill in support of China and Hong Kong.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” he said. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”
Thousands of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong thanked the U.S. on Thursday night by holding a Thanksgiving Day rally.
Wong, who was among those who lobbied for the new U.S. laws, told the rally it was remarkable that human rights had triumphed over crucial U.S.-China trade talks. He urged other Western nations to follow suit as well.
Last week, China’s new ambassador to Canada warned Ottawa not to follow the lead of the U.S. and support protesters. The warning came days after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the two bills almost unanimously.
“If somebody here really tries to … have this kind of law like that in the United States, it’s very dangerous,” said Chinese envoy Cong Peiwu, speaking in English.
“If anything happens like this it will certainly have very bad damage on our bilateral relationship and that is not in the interests of Canada.”
Relations between China and Canada have already been tense for about a year following the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also asked on Wednesday what additional measures Canada would take to protect its citizens in Hong Kong, said the government “will continue to call for de-escalation and an end to violence” while urging dialogue.
U.S.-China tensions grow
Meanwhile, tensions between the U.S. and China grew after the two bills were signed.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad that the move constituted “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law,” a foreign ministry statement said.
Le called it a “nakedly hegemonic act.” He urged the U.S. not to implement the bills to prevent greater damage to U.S.-China relations, the ministry said.
At a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to a question about how Trump’s endorsement of the legislation might affect the trade talks by saying it would undermine “co-operation in important areas.”
— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press