HONG KONG/WINNIPEG: China fired back at Canada on Saturday for criticising Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, the second rebuke in a week that has added to strains of their bilateral ties.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the law and Canada’s foreign minister called the legislation “a significant step back” for liberty.
China’s embassy in Ottawa said in a statement on its website that Canada had “grossly interfered” in Chinese affairs, adding that the new legislation would safeguard security in Hong Kong.
“Some western countries including Canada have been meddling in Hong Kong affairs under the pretext of human rights, which seriously violates international law and basic norms of international relations,” a spokesperson said in the statement.
China imposed the legislation this week despite protests by Hong Kongers and criticism from Western nations, which said the legislation was setting the financial hub on an authoritarian track.
Hong Kong officials said on Saturday they were “very disappointed” in Canada’s suspension of the extradition treaty.
A spokesman in the prime minister’s office referred to a Friday statement by the foreign minister that reiterated Canada’s “serious concern” with the law. The government had no further comment, he said.
Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been tense since 2018 when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co, on a US warrant.
After Meng was detained, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, on charges of espionage.
China also rebuked Canada a week ago over Ottawa’s criticism about the prosecution of the Canadians.
Books written by prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have started to disappear from the city’s libraries, online records show, days after Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the finance hub.
Among the authors whose titles are no longer available are Joshua Wong, one of the city’s most prominent young activists, and Tanya Chan, a well known pro-democracy lawmaker.
Beijing’s new national security law was imposed on Tuesday and is the most radical shift in how the semi-autonomous city is run since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.
China’s authoritarian leaders say the powers will restore stability after a year of pro-democracy protests, will not stifle freedoms and will only target a “very small minority”.
But it has already sent fear coursing through a city used to speaking openly, with police arresting people for possessing slogans pushing independence or greater autonomy and businesses scrambling to remove protest displays.
Wong said he believed the removal of the books was sparked by the security law.
“White terror continues to spread, the national security law is fundamentally a tool to incriminate speech,” he wrote on Facebook, using a phrase that refers to political persecution.
Searches on the public library website showed at least three titles by Wong, Chan and local scholar Chin Wan are no longer available for lending at any of dozens of outlets across the city.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020