China is a bully, a view increasingly taken by its neighboring countries and best illustrated by its recent actions in retaliation against Canada. Deference to a bully would only invite more aggressive actions but standing up to it draws respect and reconciliation. To this end, Canada has done a great job in standing firm in facing repeated assaults from China.
Modern China has a history of acting like a bully. From its economic sanction against South Korea in 2017 THAAD dispute to its aggressive action in militarizing the South China Sea, its behavior fits the classic definition of a bully. Now it puts Canada in its retaliation crosshairs by detaining two innocent Canadians on spying charges and sentencing a drug trafficker to death – who was convicted without a fair trial.
China’s bullying practices can find its roots in the Cultural Revolution, which was a hotbed for political persecution, oppression, and brutality. Tens of thousands of people died, and the lives of millions were ruined as Mao brought the country into one of its darkest eras, in a bid to destroy political dissidents. While the violent maniac had run its bloody course, the aggressive and abusive culture it created has remained and festered. China, under Xi’s control, is willing to go at any length to eliminate those who dare to challenge his power by resorting to threats, cruelty, and torture.
However, Canada’s strength lies in its respect for international treaties and laws and its firm stance in protecting democratic principles. The Trudeau government has taken that strength to the next level. While knowing about US extradition requests in advance of Meng’s arrival in Vancouver, Ottawa adopted a hands-off approach, allowing the legal process to unfold and refusing to intervene politically. Ottawa was not intimidated by the prospect of becoming the target of China’s reprisal, despite knowing that by secretively tipping off Meng not to come to Vancouver, Canada could have easily avoided Chinese repercussions that Canada is now facing. It reaffirms its position to respect the rule of law even after Trump claimed that he might intervene in charges against the top Huawei executive following her arrest in Canada.
Arbitrarily detaining, mistreating and giving the death penalty on Canadians violates international legal norms, which only spark denunciations and uproars from the global community. Ottawa’s will and determination to maintain judicial independence only become stronger as China escalates its bullying behavior. Canada’s counterpunch is to condemn and protest, by calling for international support and by rallying our allies.
To release Meng is not in our legal playbook and China’s reprisal won’t shake Canada’s faith towards the course of justice. Meng must wait for her extradition hearings, which may result in her facing her judgment day in US court, regardless of how many more repercussions China threatens on us. Canada will not bend to a tyrannical government’s pressure or succumb to its chill and terror.
As a Chinese Canadian, I feel ashamed by the actions of a rogue regime and I am proud of Canada’s remarkable persistence in defending our democratic rule of law.
Kudos to Canada and bravo to Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland!
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