The Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China has urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pay attention to issues in Hong Kong and human rights cases in China during his visit to the mainland.

Trudeau is in Beijing ahead of the G20 conference in Hangzhou. It is his first trip to China as Canadian Prime Minister. His government is pursuing a “renewed relationship” between China and Canada, he said at a dinner hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday.

justin trudeau china trip
Sign on Canadian Embassy in China welcoming Trudeau. Photo: Canadian Embassy Weibo.

Among these were cases in Hong Kong that the coalition said arose from China’s failure to respect the One Country Two Systems principle. Incidents listed included the Causeway Bay Books missing publishers debacle, the banning of pro-independence candidates from LegCo elections, and moves to ban discussion of Hong Kong independence in schools.

The coalition, which represents 15 Canadian organisations, also raised concerns about consular protection for Hong Kong-Canadians, saying “the Government of China’s assertion that all Hong Kong Chinese, including those who hold foreign passports, are first and foremost Chinese citizens raises concerns about consular protection for Canadians of Hong Kong origin.”

Justin Trudeau meets Li Keqiang.
Justin Trudeau meets Li Keqiang.

Besides urging the Canadian government to “use every opportunity during this trip to signal your intention to place respect for human rights at the heart of the Canada/China relationship,” the group also urged Trudeau’s government to ensure that any free trade agreements do not contribute to human rights abuses.

“We urge that an independent, expert and comprehensive human rights impact assessment be carried out early in the negotiation process of any trade deal between Canada and China,” the letter said prior to Canada’s announcement that it would apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Wednesday.

LegCo election

A small group of Chinese-Canadians called the Friends of Hong Kong in Vancouver prepared a background briefing that called for international media attention to Sunday’s LegCo election. It is concerned that, whilst most media attention will be focused on the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, a “monumental” election is taking place in Hong Kong.

“Candidates from the pan-dem camp are deeply worried that this could be the dirtiest election ever… Candidates are threatened or coerced into withdrawal or even stopped campaigning… in short, anything might happen on Sept. 4,” the statement to Canadian media said.

Ken Chow Wing-kan
Candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan, who suspended his campaign citing threats to people close to him. Photo: i-Cable Screenshot.

“It is also strongly recommended that the consulates or foreign countries’ representatives and the foreign correspondents (such as members of the FCCHK) located in Hong Kong be vigilant about the cleanliness, fairness and transparency of the LegCo Election. Any expressed concern or organized monitoring teams would be helpful to send the signal to the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities that the HK LegCo election is under close scrutiny around the world,” it said.

China’s crackdown on civil society

NGO Human Rights Watch also published a letter to G20 member governments urging them to call on China to end its crackdown on Chinese activist groups. They should also protest China’s restrictions on civil society groups’ participation in the G20 process, it said.

The letter, which was sent out in early August to some G20 countries and the European Union, criticised China’s limiting of independent groups’ participation in the C20 and L20 preparatory meetings.

“We urge that you regard the C20 communique with skepticism, as it is difficult to see it as a true reflection of the views of independent domestic Chinese and global civil society,” it said.

“If the G20 is serious about consulting civil society groups, its leaders will have to tour China’s prisons, not the conference venue in Hangzhou,” Sophie Richardson, the Director of Human Rights Watch, said. “Letting China host this meeting and staying silent on its abuses will send the Chinese government – and people across China – absolutely the wrong message.”

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.