When a reporter asked China's Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu if he raised the fate of the quarter-million Canadians living in Hong Kong as a threat, he said simply, "That is your interpretation."
“We are respecting the lawful rights of Canadian citizens,” China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu said.
The stale jargon of Chinese diplomacy is designed to make threats and bullying sound respectable.
China’s ambassador in Ottawa, Cong Peiwu, was asked to explain alarming comments made by President Xi Jinping that his nation’s troops should be preparing for war.
China’s path of peaceful development is enshrined in its constitution, Cong told reporters on a video conference call to mark 50 years of Canada-China relations. “But of course, we have to be careful about our external environment in the South China Sea. It is generally stable but the U.S. is trying to make trouble in the region.”
He categorized the U.S. military presence in the area as “very dangerous,” particularly its incursions into the Taiwan Strait, through which a U.S. navy destroyer, USS Barry, sailed on Wednesday. “The U.S. is selling advanced weaponry (to Taiwan) and trying to undermine our national security,” Cong said. China is only doing what “any responsible sovereign country is entitled to do” by putting its military on alert.
Cong’s interpretation suggests that it is the Chinese mainland that is in danger of attack.
In reality, the threat to world peace comes from Xi’s declaration that unification of Taiwan with the People’s Republic is “an inevitable requirement for the historical rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” The U.S. does not have a formal agreement with Taiwan but has long implied it would help defend the island, if was attacked.
The People’s Liberation Army has increased the pressure in the Taiwan Strait in recent months and Communist Party officials have ramped up their rhetoric. Xi’s comments may have been aimed at dissuading an arms deal between the U.S. and the government in Taipei that would include drones and anti-ship missile systems.
George Orwell once noted the link between ambiguous political speech and oppressive ideology — the use of euphemism and cloudy vagueness to defend the indefensible.
In the conference call with reporters, Cong was obliged to resort to all manner of calculated phraseology to justify his country’s behaviour.
He said Canada had acted as “an accomplice” to the U.S. when it detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The Americans are engaging in “power politics and unilateralism” to bring down Huawei, while China is a “builder of world peace” and “upholder of the international order.”
Reporters asked Cong why it was only this past weekend that two Canadian detainees — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — were granted consular access, despite China being a signatory of the Vienna Convention that obliges regular consular visits.
Cong said China has complied with the Vienna Convention but consular access was suspended because of COVID-19. “We are respecting the lawful rights of Canadian citizens,” he said.
Kovrig and Spavor have been prosecuted because they are suspected of having engaged in activities endangering national security, he said. “The judicial process …will unfold in due course.”
The envoy repeated the well-worn line that the arrest of the two Michaels was not a case of direct retaliation for Meng’s detention. But he spoiled the effect by saying the safe return of Meng to China would “be conducive to long-term development,” which suggests a deal could be struck.
Cong invoked the call by 19 eminent former parliamentarians and diplomats for the federal government to intervene in the extradition process and send Meng home. He said he hopes the government will listen to these “rational voices.”
That is unlikely.
Justin Trudeau rejected the call to intervene and in recent days has taken a firmer line on China, accusing it of “coercive diplomacy” when it comes to the new national security law in Hong Kong and treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. Trudeau said Canada will work with allies to ensure such tactics do not succeed.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson responded by accusing the Canadian government of being “hypocritical and weak.”
Cong said for China the Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues are not about human rights, “they are internal affairs about which China brooks no interference from the outside.”
He cautioned Canada about accepting asylum-seeking “violent criminals” from Hong Kong. “If Canadians care about the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, including the 300,000 Canadian passport holders there, they should support efforts to fight violent crime to make sure the one country, two systems is constantly and comprehensively implemented in Hong Kong,” he said. “I suggest people here take an objective and fair view of what is happening in Hong Kong, and make sure not to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.”
When one reporter asked Cong if he had raised the fate of the quarter-million Canadians living in Hong Kong as a threat, he said simply, “That is your interpretation.”
Cong’s pitch is that Canada and China can “work to strive to open more bright prospects,” if only the Meng “grave political incident” can be resolved.
But he is wrong. No amount of smooth diplomatic phrases — like a cuttlefish squirting out ink, in Orwell’s words — will rekindle fondness for a regime that so blithely engages in intimidation, blackmail and abduction.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020