China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, recently issued a veiled threat to Canada, warning that if the North American nation were to continue supporting Hong Kong protesters, the lives of Canadians living in Hong Kong may be at risk. The ambassador also accused Canada of working with the U.S. to detain Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
“We strongly urge the Canadian side not to grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong, because it is interference in China’s domestic affairs, and certainly it will embolden those violent criminals… If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong, and a large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Peiwu said, as reported by The Guardian.
When Peiwu was asked whether his words were a threat to Canadian Hongkongers, he cunningly avoided admitting it by stating that such a viewpoint was only an “interpretation.” However, any sane political expert will realize exactly what the official meant — “Stop supporting Hongkong protesters or we will punish Canadians living in Hong Kong.” Such a move shows how desperate China is about stopping other countries from providing asylum to people fleeing Hong Kong.
François-Philippe Champagne, the foreign affairs minister for Canada, called Peiwu’s statements “unacceptable and disturbing.” He instructed a minister to call the Chinese ambassador for a meeting. Champagne also wants two Canadian prisoners in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, to be brought back home. The two Canadians were detained just days after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit back at China, declaring that his county will loudly speak out for human rights, whether it is about highlighting the persecution of Uyghurs or the eradication of autonomy in Hong Kong. There are around 300,000 Canadians working in Hong Kong and China’s threat basically puts them in a life and death scenario. Canada is not the only country to have attracted the ire of Beijing for offering asylum to fleeing Hongkongers. Britain is also being targeted since the country has announced that Hongkongers with British National Overseas (BNO) passports will be allowed to immigrate and even be given citizenship.
Around 300,000 Hongkongers are believed to currently hold a BNO passport, with an additional 2.9 million being eligible for one. China’s foreign ministry stated that it might de-recognize British passports of Hong Kong citizens.
China’s international support
At the United Nations, China was able to drum up sizable support among nations for its Hong Kong policy. Around 54 nations, including countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, and so on supported China at the UN meeting. In contrast, only 39 nations, mostly Western, opposed communist China’s takeover of Hong Kong.
Inevitably, most of China’s support came from developing nations with which it has strong business ties. Of the 54 supportive countries, 28 were from Africa and 8 were from the Middle East. Only 45 of these nations supported China’s policies in Xinjiang. Though Pakistan also signed China’s Xinjiang statement, it held back on reading it publicly at the UN.