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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Letter to the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in advance of his February 2012 visit to China

January 17, 2012

16 January 2012

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper

Prime Minister of Canada

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900 /

Dear Prime Minister:

 As you will soon be visiting China on your second official visit, the Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) would like to take this opportunity to share our concerns and priorities with you.

In your announcement last Wednesday, you stated: “Our Government is committed to moving our relationship with China forward by focusing on deepening economic ties, including opening new markets, and setting the foundation for long-term growth”. It's unfortunate that a reference to Canada's long-standing concerns with the Government of China's human rights practices was omitted from this announcement. It's our position that human rights and trade are not mutually exclusive.

In 2010, former Ambassador Derek Burney wrote: “We do not have to camouflage our differences (with China). Nor do we have to “go along or kowtow to get along.” That is a juvenile concept that has nothing to do with fundamental foreign policy analysis. A more adult approach to the relationship by both countries would allow for honest disagreements on issues such as human rights.”

We agree. Compromising our values is not the Canadian way.

As your government knows, sixteen Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009. On past official visits, US leaders have made a point of worshipping in Beijing. We urge you to do the same. Tibetan monks who have self-immolated as a desperate act of defiance against religious repression deserve no less. Such an act will also provide an auspicious start to your government's new Office of Religious Freedom.

We also urge you to raise Canada's human rights concerns in a public forum before Chinese citizens while you are in Beijing as President Obama and former Australian Prime Minister Howard have both done.

And it is essential that in your meeting with President Hu Jintao that you make the strongest possible representations to President Hu over China’s lack of fair judicial process, religious repression and continued human rights abuses against the Tibetan people.

The CTC favours a transparent, principled, and constructive relationship with China that encompasses all facets of our relationship and that has human rights at the core. We believe that a free, prosperous China is in Canada’s interests. But more importantly, it’s in the interests of Tibetans and Chinese citizens alike.


Dermod Travis

Executive Director

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