Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once again dodged questions about whether his government will pursue any concrete action as China cracks down on pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, or whether his government will finally make a decision about Huawei.
For weeks, Trudeau has used his daily briefing with journalists outside Rideau Cottage to express concern about the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong. Protestors there have been pushing back at a Chinese national security law that human rights leaders say will dismantle the last shreds of the one country, two systems principle under which Hong Kong was transferred from the U.K. to China.
But he has so far offered no ideas on concrete action and has repeatedly dodged questions about whether he will consider things such as sanctions against Chinese officials or pushing for the creation of a United Nations special envoy to Hong Kong.
“We have worked with some of our closest allies including the U.K., Australia and others to condemn the actions taken by China in Hong Kong,” Trudeau said.
“We are extremely concerned with their stepping away from the one country, two systems agreement that was signed a few decades ago. We need to ensure that rights are defended around the world including in Hong Kong.”
Beijing’s national security law comes after a raucous year of protests opposed to the regime’s creeping influence into the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.
Formerly a British colony, Hong Kong was transferred to China in 1997 under a legally binding agreement that its people would continue to enjoy rights not recognized on the mainland: namely, democracy.
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But China under President Xi Jinping has been challenging that agreement and pushed that further than ever last month with the introduction and rubber-stamped vote on a bill that will outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
All of those are accusations Beijing routinely makes when facing any form of dissent or criticism.
China does not have judicial independence.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a column published in the South China Morning Post that Britain will not turn away if China continues to ignore the legally binding handover agreement.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life — which China pledged to uphold — is under threat,” Johnson said in the column.
“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away.”
Trudeau has urged China to have “constructive” conversations with Hong Kong and has not yet given a clear answer about whether his government would help facilitate immigration or refugee applications from people fleeing Hong Kong if it comes to that.
“We will continue to be a country that is open and welcoming to people fleeing persecution,” he said.
“We continue to work with partners and allies on ways to ensure that China knows that its actions in Hong Kong are deeply troubling, are of real concern for the sake of people in Hong Kong and people around the world as well, and we will continue to speak up strongly for people who are worried about their futures in Hong Kong.”
There are roughly 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong.
Still no answers on Huawei 5G role
He also would not say when the government will make a decision about whether to allow the Chinese technology firm Huawei to participate in any part of the building of Canada’s 5G network.
Ottawa began a security review in late 2018 and officials initially said they expected to have the results of that before the 2019 fall election. That was then pushed to after the election.
There has been no update since.
American intelligence agencies and officials have warned Huawei poses an unacceptable espionage risk because of a Chinese law that requires Chinese companies to spy for the government if asked.
Huawei denies it would do so but has not identified under which legal mechanism it would or could use to refuse a demand by the Chinese government on a Chinese company.
American officials have also warned that if Canada let Huawei in, the government would be jeopardizing access to U.S. intelligence sharing, an assertion Trudeau was asked on Thursday if he was willing to risk.
“These are considerations that we have been looking very carefully at,” he said.
“Obviously conversations have been extensive with all our Five Eyes allies including the United States as we continue to work on the right path forward for Canada.”
Canada is now the last of the Five Eyes allies to make a decision on Huawei’s role in the 5G networks.
The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. have all banned the firm, either entirely or from the core and sensitive parts of their networks.
In Canada, telecom firms Bell, Telus and Rogers have signed deals with European providers to build their 5G networks as the wait continues for the government to take a stance on Huawei.