Nearly 70 Canadian Lawmakers urge sanctions on Chinese Officials for Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang abuses

The Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yangisar, south of Kashgar. (Photo courtesy: CBC)

(, Jul15’20) – In a growing momentum of calls from the democratic West to hold the Chinese government to account for its unbridled repression of democratic and human rights of peoples under its rule, a group of nearly 70 Lawmakers in Canada has on Jul 14 urged their prime minister to levy sanctions on top Chinese officials, citing abuses perpetrated against Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

Joined by community leaders and organizations from across the political spectrum, 64 members of the House of Commons and four Senators have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: “We, the signatories, call on the Government of Canada to invoke Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) S.C. 2017, c. 21 against individuals who are directly responsible for the human rights atrocities happening in Tibet, occupied East Turkestan [Xinjiang], and Hong Kong.”

Canada, like many other democratic Western countries, recently condemned China for its newly enacted national security law for Hong Kong and suspended some bilateral agreements with the special administrative region as a result of it. These included suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong and restrictions on certain “sensitive” exports to the region. The security law substantially annulled the “one country, two systems” deal under which China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997.

Even before that, Sino-Canadian relations had soured after Canadian authorities detained Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in 2018 at the request of the United States. China responded by arresting two Canadian nationals on charges of espionage. Meng is wanted by the US authorities for her role in violating sanctions against Iran through banking fraud.

“As a leader on the international human rights discussion, to invoke Magnitsky sanctions against these officials is a strong and symbolic action that is consistent with how Canada has applied this act in the past,” reads the letter.

The Magnitsky legislation allows Canada to impose sanctions, economic or otherwise, against specific people or organizations known to be responsible for human rights violations or corruption in other countries.

The week before, Canada’s minister of global affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, had suggested that Canada was considering such sanctions against some mainland China officials in response to human rights abuses in the country, particularly in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang, noted Jul 14.

However, later in the week, a Reuters story quoted a government source as saying Ottawa was not actually considering the sanctions.

The open letter came as critics say Canada hadn’t taken enough action to condemn human rights violations in Tibet, Xinjiang and on the developments in Hong Kong.

“What Magnitsky legislation does is it puts a name and a face to violations,” International human rights lawyer David Matas was quoted as saying. “It’s an attribution of responsibility.”

Sanctions could include freezing assets, barring those sanctioned from coming to Canada or even opening them up to prosecution should they arrive here, he has said.

Last week, the United States named several people, including a politburo member, and one organization related to human rights abuses in China for sanctions.


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