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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Opinion: Break out the fine China

July 28, 2008

The London Free Press (Canada)
July 27, 2008                 

Months ago, at the height of the international furor over China's
treatment of Tibetan protesters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said
he had no plans to attend the opening ceremonies. And it appears he's
sticking to his guns -- unlike other international leaders, including
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President George W. Bush,
who'd earlier hinted they might not attend, but now will.

Harper has already taken heat for this. Liberal foreign affairs
critic Bob Rae has framed Harper's planned absence as a "rebuff" of
China. Rae and others repeat the nostrum that the best way to improve
human rights in China is to engage -- as though Canada is doing
something different.

Nonsense. We're doing nothing of the kind. Canada is sending 331
athletes to these Games -- a much larger complement than the 200-plus
at Athens in 2004.

The Canadian government will also be fully represented at the opening
ceremonies on Aug. 8 by Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson and
Secretary of State for Sport Helena Guergis. Is Harper sending a
message by personally staying away? Likely. But it's a message
entirely consistent with Canadian values of supporting democracy and
human rights around the world. It's also entirely consistent with a
policy of engaging the Chinese. If you want to send a message about
human rights, you must have a relationship -- but you must also
communicate your views.

If Harper were to change his tune now, he'd be doing one, but not the other.

Here's what Harper said some months ago: "I would continue to urge
China to respect human rights and peaceful protests not just in Tibet
but everywhere. I would also encourage the government of China to
understand that its growing wealth, its growing importance in the
world and of course the profile of the Olympics will put a greater
and greater spotlight on its record."

Whether or not anyone in China is listening, that was well put. It
still holds up.
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