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China trying to dictate who can testify before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee

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The NDP's foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, who has been a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee since 2007, says it is the first time he can remember a foreign government trying to dictate who can testify before the committee.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

The NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, who has been a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee since 2007, says it is the first time he can remember a foreign government trying to dictate who can testify before the committee.

By: Mike Blanchfield The Canadian Press, Published on Mon Mar 09 2015

OTTAWA—China is pressuring a committee of Canadian Parliament to rescind its invitation to the leader of Hong Kong’s democracy movement to appear before it and give testimony, The Canadian Press has learned.

Martin Lee was invited to give a Tuesday briefing to MPs on the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The Chinese ambassador to Canada, however, has issued a letter to the committee telling it to butt out of China’s domestic affairs, issuing a thinly veiled warning to not rock the boat on Sino-Canada relations.

Lee, a veteran pro-democracy activist, was one of several people arrested last Decemberafter more than two months of demonstrations against restrictions that the Beijing government is imposing on Hong Kong’s first election in 2017.

The protests paralyzed Hong Kong and gave rise to a new opposition movement that is seen by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a threat to his country’s stability.

The Chinese government regularly sends toughly worded messages to democratic countries that entertain political figures that it does not approve of, such as the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

A letter from Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaojui said his government “learned” about plans for Lee to testify about political reform in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

“We hereby express our deep concern and strong opposition,” the envoy’s letter said.

“Hong Kong’s political development falls entirely within China’s domestic affairs. The Chinese side resolutely opposes any foreign governments, institutions and individuals to interfere in Hong Kong affairs,” he added.

“In consideration of the sensitive and complicated situation in Hong Kong, we hope that the Canadian side will not hold such a hearing, not intervene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs in any form, so as not to send wrong signals to the outside world and cause any disturbance to China-Canada relations.”

David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China until 2012, said Luo’s letter reflects “an incomplete understanding” of how Parliament works.

“The ambassador needs to be aware of Canadian history,” said Mulroney, the author of a new book on Canada-China relations.

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