Would Canada Accept a Cold War Laxity on Rights Abuses?

Washington’s decision yesterday to break off diplomatic ties with China over the Tiananmen Square killings doesn’t portend any sanctions against Ottawa on human rights grounds. But Ottawa’s deliberately slow reaction to China’s increasing intransigence on justice for prisoners of conscience seems to portend exactly that.

I guess I’m thinking, in two ways:

1. Ottawa, given the near-certainty that it will be the next target of repressive Chinese Communist Party efforts to punish various dissidents and pro-democracy activists, would be well advised to rush into a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. This isn’t East Timor or Taiwan. It’s the Olympics, a time when representatives of the Western world usually show up to cheer on a host of young athletes who have just got their chance.

2. Many Canadians genuinely believe that Chinese Communism lacks a shred of sympathy for human rights, and that Ottawa is allowing itself to be distracted from China’s stonewalling on justice for human rights detainees. They argue that Ottawa is doing nothing in the face of this stonewalling. The hope must be that if Ottawa has months or years of Olympic fanfare to spoil, it won’t vote on trade deals or otherwise hurt our international relations.

Here are the clearest examples of the widespread belief in Canada that Beijing has no regard for human rights. We should take advantage of our Olympic anniversary and sprint out to Ottawa to force it to show some moral leadership on behalf of its own citizens.

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