Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

Chinese ambassador warns Canada against adopting motion calling for sanctions

MONTREAL — China’s new ambassador to Canada is threatening “very firm countermeasures” if Parliament adopts a motion calling for sanctions over alleged Chinese human rights abuses against Muslim Uighurs and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

China has long warned against what it considers foreign meddling in its internal affairs, but Ambassador Cong Peiwu upped the tone Thursday in Montreal by saying there would be consequences if Parliament votes in favour of a motion set to be tabled in the Senate next week.

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos recently announced he and Senator Thanh Hai Ngo will table a motion calling on the Liberal government to sanction Chinese officials under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, also known as the Magnitsky Act.

The law, named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who was tortured and died in a Moscow prison after uncovering fraud in Russia, targets foreign nationals who are ”responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Following a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, Cong said if the Senate or House of Commons adopts the motion, ”It suddenly would be a very serious violation of Chinese domestic affairs under such pretext of human rights or democracy.”

He said ”very firm countermeasures” would result. “It’s not in the interest of Canada’s side,” he added. “We do hope they will stop this kind of dangerous activity.”

In an emailed statement, Housakos said the ambassador’s comments illustrate why his motion is needed. “The real danger is that the more we appease them, the more emboldened they become,” he said. “It’s time for Canada to stand up for our values. We are either defenders of democracy, human rights and the rule of law or we are not.”

After his speech, Cong dismissed as “fake news” recent reports in international media that China is detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the territory of Xinjiang, the Uighur homeland, in ideological and behavioural re-education centres.

The Chinese government is conducting “preventative counter-terrorism measures” that are providing security to the country, he said. “Since the past three years (there has been) no single violent terrorist incident,” he said.

Classified documents leaked to a consortium of news organizations and published last month revealed a Chinese government strategy to lock up ethnic minorities before any crime has been committed to rewire their thoughts and the language they speak.

“They confirm that this is a form of cultural genocide,” Adrian Zenz, a leading security expert on the far western region of Xinjiang, told The Associated Press. “It really shows that from the onset, the Chinese government had a plan.”

Cong rejected the reports outright and said “the facts speak for themselves.” More than 2.4 million tourists visited Xinjiang last year, he said. “And they enjoyed that very much.”

The U.S. Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill targeting Beijing’s mass crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities, less than one week after President Donald Trump signed separate human rights legislation on Hong Kong.

The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act denounces the detention of an estimated 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in Xinjiang, home to the predominantly Muslim minority groups. It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in enacting oppressive policies.

Canada-China relations have been strained since Dec. 1, 2018, when RCMP arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport, at the request of the United States.

Days later, two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — were detained in China on allegations of undermining national security, and the two men continue to be held in that country.

“These two Canadians are arrested by competent Chinese authorities because they are suspected of endangering Chinese national security,” Cong said. “Their legitimate rights have been guaranteed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 5, 2019.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Montreal Alouettes' Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (3) and Mexico's Jacqueline Ovalle (11) battle for the ball during a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Delcia Lopez
Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Running back Andrew Harris, who was instrumental in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending their Grey Cup drought in 2019, tops the CFL team's list of potential free agents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

24Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) goes up for a shot agains the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.. Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill
Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (10) scrambles past Texas State's Nico Ezidore (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chuck Burton
BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court to attend a hearing, in Vancouver, on Friday, November 27, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

Most Read