Open letter urges Trudeau to raise human rights issues during China visit

China's President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Wedensday, Aug. 31, 2016. (Wu Hong/Pool Photo via AP)

By Janice Dickson
Published on Nov 30, 2017 11:02am

In an open letter, a 15-member coalition has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put human rights at the “top of his agenda” during his visit to China.

The Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China wants Trudeau to “rigorously” pursue human rights protections in his discussions related to trade and to firmly call for the release of “prisoners of conscience”including 16 individuals with close Canadian connections.

The letter is endorsed by Amnesty International Canada, Canada-Hong Kong Link, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Falun Dafa Association of Canada, Federation for a Democratic China, Students for a Free Tibet Canada, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, the Uyghur Canadian Society and the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement in China.

The letter calls on Trudeau to ensure “focussed attention and top priority is given to the human rights impacts of any expanded trading relationship between the two countries, and repeats its demand that any future trade pact must be subjected to human rights assessments before finalization and at regular intervals thereafter.”

Trudeau will be in China from Dec 3 – 7 and according to a release from the prime minister’s office announcing the details of the trip, Canada is committed to a stronger relationship between Canada and China, “one that strengthens and grows the middle class, and is based on regular, frank, and comprehensive dialogue, including on issues like good governance, human rights, and the rule of law.”

The coalition also provided Trudeau with two lists of prisoners “unjustly held in China” and requested that he press for their release.

According to the group, one list consists of 16 prisoners who are Canadian citizens and people with “strong Canadian connections” and the other includes 13 individuals whose “plight is emblematic of the persecution faced by minorities and human rights defenders in China.”

The coalition highlighted the cases of Canadian citizens, Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur Imam imprisoned since 2006, and Qian Sun, a Falun Gong practitioner imprisoned since February 2017, as well as Wang Bingzhang, a democracy activist imprisoned since 2002.

“The Coalition urges Prime Minister Trudeau and senior government officials to make it clear that Canada expects these individuals and all other prisoners of conscience to be released.”

Trudeau goes first to Beijing where he is to meet Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. He is to move on to the city of Guangzhou where he’ll give the keynote speech at a global business conference and meet with business leaders about trade and investment.

Trudeau made his first official visit to China last year.

With files from the Canadian Press.