China’s foreign minister is in Canada this week, but he doesn’t seem to be observing the local customs of unfailing politeness and remarkable niceness.
At a joint news conference on Wednesday with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was asked by a journalist from the web outlet IPolitics:
“There are no shortage of concerns about China’s treatment of human rights advocates, such as the Hong Kong booksellers and its detention of the Garratts, not to mention the destabilizing effects of its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Given these concerns why is Canada pursuing closer ties with China, how do you plan to use that relationship to improve human rights and security in the region and did you specifically raise the case of the Garratts during your discussions with the foreign minister today?”
The question obviously angered Wang and he went off a rant, which his translator was then forced to try to convey:
I have to say that your question is full of prejudice and against China and arrogance. I don’t know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable.
I have to ask whether you understand China. Have you ever been to China? Do you know that China has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty? And do you know that China is now the second largest economy in the world from a very low foundation?
Do you think development is possible for China without protection for human rights? And do you know that China has written protection and promotion of human rights into our constitution? Other people don’t know better than the Chinese people about the human rights condition in China and it is the Chinese people who are in the best position to have a say about China’s human rights situation.
So I would like to suggest to you that please don’t ask questions in such an irresponsible manner. We welcome goodwill suggestions, but we reject groundless or unwarranted accusations.
The Globe and Mail reports that the question had been agreed on by a number of journalists at the press conference. The mysterious case of the missing Hong Kong booksellers made headlines across the world earlier this year, when five managers and staff of a Hong Kong book store known for publishing material and gossip critical of the central government went missing late last year, only to reappear in custody on the mainland.
Meanwhile, “the Garratts” refers to a Canadian couple who were operating a coffee shop near the North Korean border before being detained in August 2014 on suspicion of espionage. While Julia Garratt was released on bail in February 2015, her husband remains in state custody and was formally charged with spying and stealing state secrets in January.
To the reporter’s question, Dion replied that he had raised the issue of the Garratts with Wang and that he and the Chinese foreign minister had engaged in “honest and frank” conversation on human rights and consular affairs..
Apart from that “unacceptable” question, Wang said that he believes China and Canada are headed for a “new Golden Age” — one to rival that of the current UK-China Golden Age, presumably. As evidence, Wang brought up Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, who established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1970.
Plus, have you seen Justin with those pandas?!
Watch Wang’s rant below:
While this might have been a bit over the top, China is always sensitive when it comes to attacks on its human rights record. At a March meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, China even went so far as to blame the US for the “rape and murder” of civilians while defending its own record from international attack. In April, China retaliated yet again against the release of the US annual human rights report by publishing its own report about human rights violations committed by the US last year.
But hey, in the end, Canadians are nothing if not polite:
I was honoured to receive Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi today, as we strengthen ties between our countries. pic.twitter.com/WjvrePiAlU
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 1, 2016