Human Rights Violations? But our Trade Relations Might Suffer!

Lai Changxing will be deported back to China.  For some reason, the Canadian government has decided it is indeed safe to do so; that the Chinese government will not subject Mr. Lai to torture or other human rights violations while he serves his prison term.  Technically, the deportation order will be challenged on Thursday but given the course of events thus far I doubt there will be a change.


My initial reaction to this article by the Globe and Mail (Lai Ordered Released from Jail in Advance of Deportation Hearting) was wholly inappropriate; hopefully this post will not come across the same way.  As has been previously mentioned, I am none to happy with my current government.  Let me assure you now that I do not let such views predetermine my opinions on any matter at all.  I firmly believe in objectivity, then forming my own opinions based on what I have learned.  Frequently, these opinions follow the same trend as past ones but the important part I want to stress here is they do not start out that way.


Mr. Lai, the Chinese citizen in question here, is an acknowledged criminal currently seeking refuge in Canada.  I am in no way making any statements for or against the claims that he is a criminal; what I am concerned with here is the political “dealings” involved with the deportation case.  The argument – a very real one, in my opinion – is about the prospect of Mr. Lai facing torture and other human rights violations if he is extradited to his native country – China.  The defendant (Mr. Lai) and his lawyers claim this will happen; the Chinese government has offered reassurances it will not.

Earlier this year, Chinese authorities agreed to give Canadian officials regular access to Mr. Lai in prison, as a way of ensuring he is not tortured. Mr. Lai’s lawyers have scoffed at that promise.

Mr. Lai’s continued residence in Canada has been a sore point with Chinese leaders. Former prime minister Zhu Rongji once said Mr. Lai should be executed three times over. (Lai Ordered Released from Jail in Advance of Deportation Hearting)

I agree with the lawyers.  There is no way the Chinese government can convince me they will not torture Mr. Lai if given the opportunity.  This should be common knowledge these days – the Chinese government controls the media and the information that is released from and about their country.  Ideally, I would love to believe the claims of torture are all made up, but the fact of the matter is, there is a 99.99% chance they are indeed accurate.  Me being naught but a university student in a different field, I will refrain from delving into the details of such claims and arguing over their accuracy.  That I will kindly leave to the professionals who have access to far more information on the matter than I do, and therefore would be able to present the case with more conviction and proof than I could hope to.  Nevertheless, I would consider it common knowledge – and indeed common sense – that the risk of human rights violations are indeed a threat for Chinese prisoners and that reassurances from the Chinese government mean diddly-squat.


China is an immensely powerful nation in today’s world.  When I was young, a teacher of mine once said “China will be the next superpower.”  Today, governments from other nations are trying very hard to improve their relations with China, Canada included.  The re-emergence of Mr. Lai’s case in national headlines coincides nicely with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, John Baird, visiting China and, essentially, paying lip service to the nation.  Once again, I would prefer to quote the Globe and Mail on this matter rather than paraphrase about Baird’s visit.  This lowers the risk of “lost in translation” or misrepresentation through unintentional omittance, etc.

“I think obviously the relationship has entered a new era over the past few years,” Mr. Baird said in a conference call with reporters from Shanghai at the end of his visit to China. “We have a strategic partner, whether it’s on energy, natural resources, international affairs.”

Mr. Baird insisted he has raised human-rights issues, including the case of a Uighur-Canadian imprisoned in China, Huseyin Celil, and that it’s no “either-or” choice for a Canadian government between chasing trade and pressing for the respect of rights, “not forgetting that neither one is more important the other.”

“I think we need to pursue both, and do it vigorously. You know what, there will be honest differences of opinion,” he said.

When a representative of the Epoch Times, a newspaper with links to China’s Falun Gong movement, suggested Mr. Baird’s language did not match the actions of a Chinese Communist Party regime that has killed millions, Mr. Baird argued history should not get in the way of relations.

“When you say millions have been killed by the regime, I mean, obviously countries we work well with like Russia and Germany have been through challenges in their history, but we now count them as allies,” Mr. Baird said. “Obviously we have substantial disagreements on some files with our counterparts, and we’ve taken the opportunity during this visit to raise those.” (Effusive John Baird Wraps up China Visit with Praise for "Strategic Partner")


To me, this is all just political grand-standing.  Globally, China is an important power – because it is powerful in every way necessary.  As always, this leads to weaker nations – like Canada – to try very hard to get on their good side, which unfortunately means ignoring blatant human rights violations and other obvious problems.  To compare the current Chinese government to the Nazi regime is wrong on multiple levels.  For one, Canada opposed the Nazis after they invaded Poland.  For another, to allow that to get in the way of modern relations with Germany would be ridiculous; World War II ended in 1945.  If the Nazis were still in power, then the matter would be different.  But they are not, and Germany is not currently murdering millions or lying about torturing and executing anyone who speaks out against the government.  Now China, is.  Not was in the 1930s and 1940s, is, and now.  So to draw that comparison that Baird made, I find rather crude and blatantly offensive to the Canadian public.


There was a time when Canada prided itself on being at the forefront of human rights.  Now, all I can see is politics getting in the way of human rights.  Canada walked out on multiple Untied Nations events because “we” oppose another country.  Here we have another example of global politics taking precedence over blatant human rights issues.  And not to be trite, but dare I say remember Rwanda?  What is the point of a blue beret if this is what the government has to say about other matters of importance?


  1. There's no discussion here so I thought I would add onto this one. The idea that any human should be tortured is horrible, and in my opinion a trial should be held to determine if he is indeed guilty of his charges. Then be held in a Canadian prison. What does it matter which country it is in?

    If he is guilty however, I think we need to realise he masterminded a smuggling operation under a strict government. I'm sure he would have known the potential consequences of this. This debate is certainly one that will test the mettle of international justice, and I hope it pulls through.

  2. I make no statements or judgements as to whether or not he is guilty of the crimes, nor do I think any criminal should escape justice by masking it as an escape from torture. But as for knowing the consequences and acting anyways? This is not a good example for it, but that would be how changes are made.