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  • Taiwan Plans Aid for Hong Kong “Shelter-seekers”; Beijing Threatens Military Action Against Taipei

  • Andréa Worden: China’s Win-win at the UN Human Rights Council: Just Not for Human Rights

  • Fears for Canadians Held in China as Meng Wanzhou Extradition Case Allowed to Proceed


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Taiwan Plans Aid for Hong Kong “Shelter-seekers”; Beijing Threatens Military Action Against Taipei

On Thursday, as Hong Kong police clashed with pro-democracy protesters who were rallying against a law that would criminalize “insulting” the PRC national anthem, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted:

Tsai’s announcement came after over 500 protesters were arrested over the last week in two separate planned demonstrations—Wednesday’s against the draft anthem bill, and last Sunday’s in opposition to Beijing’s publication of a draft decision that would unilaterally impose national security legislation on Hong Kong. The move comes after long-running concerns over Beijing’s encroachment on the city’s autonomy last spring erupted into a mass protest movement that stalled early this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 movement began in opposition to a draft extradition law, and then expanded its demands. Since Beijing’s announcement and the resurgence of demonstrations over the past week, calls for Hong Kong independence have been increasing among protesters.

With Washington-led international condemnation of the expected move growing, on Thursday in Beijing the National People’s Congress approved the draft decision, paving the way for specific laws to be drafted and implemented in coming months. Reporting on the NPC’s approval at The Guardian, Lily Kuo recalls the sharp concerns over the legislation’s impact on the city and its pro-democracy movement:

[In addition to banning any acts that endanger China’s national security, including separatism, subversion and terrorism the] legislation would also allow “national security agencies” – potentially Chinese security forces – to operate in the city.

[…] “It is definitely the start of a new but sad chapter for Hong Kong,” said the pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo. “Hong Kong as we knew it is finally dead.”

[…] On LIHKG, a forum popular with protesters, users called for a “hundred-day war” to take advantage of their last opportunity to protest before the laws come into force. “Say no to China,” one posted.

“As a Hong Konger there is not much we can do except to show the world we are still fighting for our rights and freedom,” said Serene Chow, 22, who has been part of the demonstrations since last year. […] [Source]

Taipei has condemned the NPC’s move. Since the NPC draft was made public, queries on immigrating to Taiwan have reportedly increased nearly tenfold. During last year’s protests, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s initially faltered popularity climbed drastically, due in part to her steady vocal support of Hong Kong protesters and spirited defense of Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy in response to Beijing’s aggression. In January, President Tsai was decisively reelected, and she began her second term last week with a record high approval rating. When China proposed the national security law, Tsai quickly pledged her support for the people of Hong Kong.

At Reuters, Yimou Lee notes that Tsai becomes the first world leader to pledge specific means in support of people who leave Hong Kong for political reasons, and relays comments from Taipei on developing plans, including mental health support for those who took part in violent protests:

Chen Ming-tong, head of Taiwan’s top China-policy maker, the Mainland Affairs Council, told parliament the government will establish an organisation to deliver “humanitarian relief” that includes settlement and employment in a joint effort with activists groups.

[…] “Many Hong Kongers want to come to Taiwan. Our goal is to give them settlement and care,” Chen said, urging the public not use the word refugee as it could be “emotionally harmful” for people from the city.

Hong Kong’s demonstrators have won widespread sympathy in democratic Taiwan, which China considers as its territory to be taken by force, if necessary. Taiwan has shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.

[…] Taiwan has no law on refugees that could be applied to protesters seeking asylum, but its laws promise to help Hong Kongers whose safety and liberty are threatened for political reasons. [Source]

On Friday, Tsai visited the bookstore opened by Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee–who had been detained in China in 2015–to offer a show of support for Hong Kong:

Reuters’ report also notes that the issue has rallied rare bipartisan support in Taiwan’s polarized political environment. At the South China Morning Post, Lawerence Chung reports on additional statements from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on the security and screening that would face a hopeful “shelter seeker’s” move to Taiwan:

Hongkongers who want to move to Taiwan, fearing they will lose their rights and freedom after Beijing approved a national security law for the city, will have to go through a strict screening process, Taiwanese officials said on Thursday.

And only those who meet the requirements under Article 18 of legislation governing Taiwan’s relations with Hong Kong would be eligible to apply, said Chen Ming-tong, head of policymaking body the Mainland Affairs Council.

Their applications would be closely scrutinised by the island’s authorities, including from the security, interior and justice departments, Chen said during a legislative meeting.

[…] The Tsai government has referred to such people not as asylum seekers, but “shelter seekers”.

Chen said the Mainland Affairs Council had already set out targets for the plan, including for the government to coordinate with relevant departments to finalise the details and budget allocation for cabinet to review within a week. [Source]

Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department announced it no longer considers Hong Kong to be autonomous from China, potentially jeopardizing the city’s special trade relationship with Washington. (Hong Kong activists have warned that eliminating the city’s special trade status would destroy the region’s economy and the remaining political freedoms it allows, and hasten Beijing’s full control.) On Friday, President Trump announced that the U.S. would begin steps to revoke Hong Kong’s special status, to which Beijing promised “countermeasures.” This comes as the U.S. and China are standing off on a host of diplomatic issues, including trade, the origins and responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic, and the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. The Trump administration has also threatened to cut all funding for the World Health Organization for amplifying alleged false reports on the initial outbreak. The U.S. has criticized the organization for refusing to include Taiwan due to Chinese pressure, and even ignoring early Taiwanese warnings of potential human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.

Separately, on Friday a top Chinese general stated that China would attack Taiwan if necessary to keep the de facto independent nation from achieving independence. Reuters reports:

Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force.

[…] “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions.”  [Source]

At The Washington Post, Anna Fifield reports on analysts’ increasing concerns that, with interrelated diplomatic tensions with Beijing in the Asia Pacific, “the prospect of actual war is not beyond possibility“:

“China is fed up with being the nice guy. Now any negative comments and actions from the U.S. are bound to trigger diplomatic reactions or other countermeasures in China,” said Xi Junyang, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. “The question is how far China is willing to go and what cards we have.”

[…] The threats [to Taiwan] come amid mounting aggression on all geographic fronts, with China embroiled in a military standoff on its western border with India, confrontation in the South China Sea and increasingly rancorous relations with Australia and Canada.

[…] Although the United States’ formal diplomatic relations are with China, it has close ties with Taiwan and has been helping it strengthen its military so that it can stand up to Beijing. The Trump administration last year agreed to sell new F-16 fighter jets worth $8 billion to Taiwan, the largest and most significant sale of weaponry to the island in decades. […] [Source]

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Andréa Worden: China’s Win-win at the UN Human Rights Council: Just Not for Human Rights

The following is an excerpt of an article titled “China’s win-win at the UN Human Rights Council: Just not for human rights” by Andréa Worden. Read the full text of the article at Project Sinopsis.

Before the Human Rights Council (HRC) suspended its 43rd session due to Covid-19 on March 13, 2020, the PRC had tabled its second resolution on ‘promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights’.1 When the HRC resumes in mid-June to conclude its final week of the session, it’s crucial that a vote be called on the PRC’s resolution2 and that governments concerned about China’s efforts to weaken international human rights and mechanisms vote against it.3 The draft resolution aims to further embed Xi Jinping’s ideas, discourse, and policy into the work and language of the Council, and subvert the purpose and mission of the HRC, which is to promote “universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all” and to address, and make recommendations on, situations of human rights violations.4 China wants to turn the HRC into something else entirely: a shell, emptied of universal values, substantive rights, and independent human rights monitoring mechanisms — a body in which individuals and civil society organizations seeking to hold governments to account for human rights violations have no place and no voice.5

The PRC’s resolution would move the Council one step closer to becoming a ‘Human Rights Council with CCP characteristics’ in which sovereignty, non-interference, ‘dialogue and cooperation,’ ‘mutual respect’ and multilateralism would be prioritized as fundamental, non-negotiable principles, and the promotion and protection of human rights of individuals rendered an afterthought. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a state-led ‘cooperative mechanism’ based on ‘interactive dialogue,’ which the PRC has used to advance its own anti-human rights agenda,6 would effectively displace mechanisms staffed and led by independent experts, such as the special procedures and the treaty bodies, which the Chinese party-state (and other illiberal governments) routinely attack.7 The PRC’s ‘mutually beneficial cooperation’ (MBC) initiative, coupled with its ‘development first’8 strategy and tactical use of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (HRCAC, or Advisory Committee) to generate ‘studies’ to support its views and agenda,9 aim to insinuate China’s rights-negating vision and discourse into the work of the Council. Accordingly, governments supportive of human rights and the international human rights system should call for a vote on the PRC’s tabled resolution, and vote against its adoption. And they should also consider submitting comments and questions to the HRCAC on its troubling study of ‘the role of technical assistance and capacity-building in fostering mutually beneficial cooperation in promoting and protecting human rights,’ which was prepared for the 43rd session.10 [Source]

See also a previous article by Worden, “The CCP at the UN: Redefining Development and Rights.”

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Fears for Canadians Held in China as Meng Wanzhou Extradition Case Allowed to Proceed

A Canadian judge has ruled that the extradition case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, filed by the U.S. government, will be allowed to proceed. Meng, who was detained at the Vancouver airport in December 2018, has been charged by the U.S. with fraud related to violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran and other crimes. Justice Heather Holmes of British Columbia’s Supreme Court ruled that the charge satisfies the “double criminality” requirement, meaning that the crime she is accused of in the U.S. would also be considered a crime in Canada. Clare Duffy of CNN has more on the ruling:

US prosecutors want Meng to stand trial on multiple charges, including bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran.

The decision to continue the case could have huge political implications for Canada, the United States and China. China’s government called the ruling a “grave political incident” in a statement posted to the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa’s official Twitter account Wednesday.

Following a four-day hearing in Vancouver’s Supreme Court in January, Holmes ruled Wednesday that the US allegations meet the key Canadian extradition standard of “double criminality,” which examines whether the conduct alleged by the country requesting the extradition could be considered a crime under Canadian law. The double criminality standard is a preliminary step in the extradition case; now that the judge determined it has been met, Meng’s case can proceed.

The ruling does not determine Meng’s guilt or innocence, only whether her actions would be considered a crime under Canadian law. Meng and Huawei have denied the US allegations. [Source]

At the Wall Street Journal, Jacquie McNish reports that while this ruling is significant in that it allows the case to proceed, it may still be a long way from resolution:

The legal fight to have her extradited to the U.S. could drag on for years, as Ms. Meng’s lawyers have filed a number of challenges that the British Columbia court has agreed to hear. The case could be further delayed if Ms. Meng appeals Wednesday’s ruling.

The U.S. requested her arrest and extradition, alleging that she misled the Chinese company’s banks about ties between Huawei and an affiliated company that did business in Iran. The banks cleared hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions that potentially violated international sanctions.

Huawei and Ms. Meng have denied any wrongdoing. Lawyers for Ms. Meng challenged the U.S. extradition request at a hearing in January on the grounds that the allegations didn’t constitute a crime in Canada because the country stopped enforcing sanctions against Iran in 2016. Canadian courts won’t approve extraditions unless the alleged crime qualifies as a criminal offense in Canada.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the Supreme Court of British Columbia said in her decision that the U.S. extradition request met the Canadian legal test. In a 23-page judgment, she said that although Canada withdrew sanctions against Iran, the U.S. sanctions against the country “give background or context” to U.S. allegations of bank fraud, which is also illegal in Canada. [Source]

The decision is expected to further worsen already deteriorating China-Canada relations, and the Chinese government immediately lashed out at both Canada and the U.S. for the decision, saying both countries “staged a political farce” with Meng’s arrest.

Before the court hearing, Justin Trudeau defended Canada’s judicial independence, saying the judge’s decision would not be influenced by any political interests. From Rob Gilles at AP:

“We have seen Chinese officials linking those two cases from the very beginning. Canada has an independent judicial system that functions without interference or override by politicians,” Trudeau said.

“China doesn’t work quite the same the way, and (they) don’t seem to understand that we do have an independent judiciary from political intervention,” he said.

[…] Trudeau has come under increasing pressure to speak out against the Chinese regime by the opposition and others.

“We will continue to follow and uphold the independence of our judicial system while we advocate for the release of the two Michaels who have been arbitrarily detained by China in retaliation for a judicial system that is independent in the way it functions,” Trudeau said. [Source]

Many observers fear that the Chinese government’s anger over the case will be brought to bear on two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China since a few days after Meng’s detention in what was widely viewed as a retaliatory measure. Both men have been charged with endangering state security and detained without trial with no access to their families or lawyers for almost 18 months. Tracy Sherlock and Dan Bilefsky of The New York Times report on the potential impact of the ruling on bilateral relations:

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said the ruling likely presaged “both sides hardening their stances at a moment when countries are already questioning China’s role in the pandemic.”

[…] Chinese state media this week signaled there could be a backlash if the ruling did not go in Ms. Meng’s favor. Global Times, a state-owned tabloid with a nationalist bent, warned of “resentment” in China should the judge make a decision that “panders to the Trump administration.”

After the decision, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, stressed that the Canadian judiciary was independent.

He said that Canada would continue to engage with China, and that its top priority was the release of the two Canadians — the former diplomat Michael Kovrig and the businessman Michael Spavor — “who have been arbitrarily detained for over 500 days.” [Source]

Analysts fear the government treatment of Kovrig and Spavor will worsen following this ruling. From Mike Blanchfield at the Canadian Press:

“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has served as a diplomat in Beijing.

“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the unresolved Meng case.

“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney. [Source]

Many in Canada also expect the Chinese government to retaliate by withholding trade with Canada and possibly critical gear needed in the fight against COVID-19. David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer of Reuters report:

This month, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc began working with the country’s National Research Council to “pave the way” for future COVID-19 vaccine trials in Canada. China has been supplying the country with personal protection equipment during the outbreak.

“If China decides to cut us off from those kinds of things, people will die,” said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor and security expert at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

[…] Chinese President “Xi Jinping will want to appear strong and will want to be seen as acting against Canada,” Saint-Jacques told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Asked on Thursday if he feared Chinese backlash, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not answer. Instead, he noted that Canada’s judiciary system is independent, and renewed his call for immediate release of citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

“We will continue to defend our interests and our values,” Trudeau added. [Source]

The charges against Meng are part of a broader U.S. government offensive against Huawei, which the Trump administration sees as a security threat as it seeks to install the infrastructure for global 5G networks. Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued new rules barring Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology. In February, a court in Brooklyn indicted Huawei for “conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies.”

The ruling also comes as many in Canada are raising concerns about Chinese government influence in the country, in particular a rise in attacks and intimidation of activists in Canada by Chinese government agents and their supporters, according to a new report by a coalition of human rights groups. The report also asserted that Ottawa’s failure to respond to such attacks assertively is exacerbating the problem. Public opinion of China in Canada is at the lowest point in 15 years, partly in response to the Meng case.

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