OTTAWA — China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.
In a Monday news conference, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said Canada had “seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs.”
Zhao Lijian said Hong Kong’s affairs are internal Chinese business and other countries have no right to get involved, and China reserves the right to further react.
“China urges the Canadian side to immediately correct its mistakes and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs in any way so as to avoid further damage to China-Canada relations,” Zhao said in a translated transcript posted to the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.
The new security law gives Beijing much tighter control over protests and other forms of dissent in Hong Kong, on the grounds that these activities are outside threats to China’s security.
Last week Canada joined other countries in restricting exports to Hong Kong and complaining that the new law violates the principle of “one country, two systems” that is meant to govern Hong Kong’s place in China. Canada also suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong.
Trudeau said Canada would look at more measures, potentially including moves related to immigration. Britain, for instance, has created a path to citizenship for Hong Kong residents who have certain documents dating from when it was a British territory, prior to 1997.
Tensions between Canada and China have already been high, with China accusing Canada of malfeasance in detaining high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant and Canada accusing China of arbitrarily detaining Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor since late 2018.
Canadian exports of canola and meat to China have also been obstructed.
Bob Rae, newly tapped as Canada’s next UN ambassador, said Monday that working to get Kovrig and Spavor freed is a top priority. He said he supports Trudeau’s position that no swap of Meng’s freedom for theirs is reasonable, partly because it would reward China’s behaviour.
And he brushed off talk that China will warn its citizens against travelling to Canada.
“I’m a great reader of George Orwell, and I think to really appreciate the world today you have to read ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ Some strange things are going on,” Rae said.
“For some country to suggest that this is a bad time to come to Canada is, frankly, bizarre. They have their own reasons for saying it, I don’t think we should take it entirely seriously. Sometimes humour is a good relief when you’re facing these moments.”
Canada has had a relationship with Hong Kong for centuries, he said, including defending it from Japanese attack in the Second World War.
“We have a stake here and we have interests. We have many Canadians of Hong Kong origin. So it’s not, we’re not meddling in anybody else’s business. We’re talking about our business, our relationships, which are important to us, and we shouldn’t shy away from expressing those thoughts,” Rae said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2020.
The Canadian Press