Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole says while he would not walk away from longstanding policies acknowledging Chinese claims over Hong Kong and Taiwan, he would modify them.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, O’Toole was asked whether he would take a more forceful stand recognizing Hong Kong and Taiwan if he were to win the leadership race and be elected as prime minister.
He said the current approaches are not working.
“I would put caveats on the One China policy,” he said, adding that “the one country, two systems agreement for Hong Kong has not been fulfilled.”
O’Toole, who has long been vocal in calling for the government to take a more critical stance on China, has amplified those calls in recent months as Beijing has faced growing criticism for covering up early reports of the spread of the coronavirus in its country.
Scientists believe it jumped from animals to humans in late December at a wet market in the city of Wuhan, although American intelligence reports suggest early spread may have begun as early as the fall and been muzzled by Chinese officials.
O’Toole has highlighted on social media that he was pushing for Taiwan to be included at the World Health Organization’s decision-making body in 2018, and issued tweets stressing the need for Canada to practise “social distancing from the Chinese regime.”
He told Stephenson he would continue to push for Taiwan to be included, and for Canada to step back from pursuing closer ties with China given its lack of transparency during the crisis.
“There needs to be a reckoning with Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party which has made this global political and economic catastrophe much worse,” he said.
“I would be willing to adjust policies to recognize that Taiwan needs to be on global pandemic bodies and should not be excluded because of Beijing’s political orders to the UN.”
The One China policy refers to a requirement of Beijing that in order to have relations with the Chinese regime, a country must acknowledge their claims of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Effectively, the policy recognizes Beijing’s insistence that there is only one sovereign Chinese state.
In the case of Taiwan, China regards the island nation as a breakaway province.
And while Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule under the vow that it be allowed to continue self-administration under its democratic system, China has challenged that agreement over recent years, leading to pro-democracy protests resisting Beijing’s creeping influence there.
But Taiwan’s success in largely countering the spread of the coronavirus has led to renewed calls for it to be granted observer status at the World Health Assembly, something China opposes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said he believes there would be benefit for Taiwan getting observer status for those meetings.
His government faced criticism, though, last week over a refusal by Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to thank Taiwan by name for donating medical supplies, despite thanking China directly when its government did the same.
Trudeau later said he had no problem thanking Taiwan by name, and did so.