Senators to table motion calling for sanctioning Chinese officials for actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang

0
5

A pair of Conservative senators plan to present a Senate motion next week calling for the Canadian government to level Magnitsky law sanctions on Chinese officials connected to human rights abuses in Hong Kong and for the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

As Parliament is set to reconvene in the coming days, Conservatives Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo and Sen. Leo Housakos are set to table a motion in the Upper Chamber that could ratchet up pressure on the governing Liberals to stake a harder position on Beijing.

Ngo said the motion would call on Ottawa to sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials “as the result of the violation of human rights, and of the principle of fundamental justice and the rule of law, relating to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, and to the treatment of minority Muslims in China.”

“I think as Canadians, we don’t have the stomach for it, particularly for the human rights abuses in China,” he told iPolitics on Tuesday. “We raised the issue of Rohingya in Myanmar. We did nothing with the Uighurs in China. What was the difference?”

The planned Senate motion was first reported by Maclean’s on Tuesday.

Ngo was among a handful of parliamentarians who met with Hong Kong activists in Ottawa last week. The activists called on Canadian politicians to speak up for their cause and support sanctions. 

Since the spring, the semi-autonomous city has seen waves of pro-democracy protests that pose the most serious political challenge to Chinese Communist power in a generation. Many protesters have been injured in violent clashes with police who have ratcheted up use of aggressive enforcement tactics. 

Recent leaks of Chinese government documents to Western media also reveal a comprehensive system of state repression of Muslim Uighurs, and hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be detained in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. Use of mass surveillance and efforts to restrict public expression of Islam are also documented.

Amid these developments, Canada-China relations remain sour over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and the detention of two Canadians in China in December 2018. Since then, China has also moved to restrict Canadian agricultural exports. 

READ MORE: Canada expresses concern over Hong Kong extradition changes amid China tensions

The Liberal government has called for violence in Hong Kong to end and expressed concern about the treatment of Uighurs, but critics say such statements have been weak.

Canada’s Magnitsky law, officially the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, targets the property of corrupt officials, freezing access to financial holdings and other assets. Canada has so far used the act to punish officials in Myanmar, Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Sudan. 

U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed into a law a bill authorizing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights violations in the city. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown in Xinjiang.

Ngo’s motion, if passed, would not compel the Canadian government to act but send a message that Senators want Ottawa to toughen its approach to Beijing. An equivalent motion could be tabled in the House of Commons.

READ MORE: Conservatives call on Trudeau government to increase pressure on China to resolve canola ban

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critics, said he doesn’t currently back levying Magnitsky sanctions but that the “prospect of sanctions should be raised with the Chinese.”

“I don’t advocate at this stage implementing and listing officials, but it’s a tool in our toolkit that should be highlighted to the Chinese,” he said.

O’Toole said a Senate motion could be seen as “a way to raise the prospect that these are real tools that are entering consideration in Canada.” He said Conservative caucus will be discussing other options to put pressure on China in Parliament, such as opposition day motions and committee studies. 

“The opposition has a number of things at its disposal,” he said.

China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, has warned Ottawa not to follow the U.S. lead on formally backing Hong Kong protesters or else it would cause “very bad damage” to the already poor Canada-China relationship.

Asked about sanctioning Chinese officials at the NATO summit in London on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa has not decided on whether to do so.

“We have Magnitsky legislation, and we are always looking at using it in different ways, but we have not made a determination at this point,” he said.

Trudeau said Canada will continue to bring up its concerns and engage China over the two detained Canadians, Hong Kong and treatment of Uighurs.

More from iPolitics

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here