Hong Kong is succumbing to the power and authority of the Communist Party of China.
The CCP has passed a national security law that would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” and would allow for mainland Chinese law enforcement agencies to enforce those laws in Hong Kong. This clearly violates the “one country, two systems” agreement that isn’t set to expire until 2047. In response, Hong Kongers did as Hong Kongers do, and protested by the thousands. Unfortunately, their efforts did not dissuade the totalitarian communist party, and it is likely that this could be the end of a free Hong Kong.
As a bastion of liberal democracy, it is important that Canada takes a stand against China’s encroachment and clear unwillingness to meet its international obligations. The big question remains, what exactly can Canada do? We don’t have the hard power to challenge China, but we may have some soft power plays that could clearly show Hong Kongers, and the world, that Canada remains steadfast in its defense of liberal values.
Some will suggest that Canada needs to engage in a trade war with China to push back against their violations in Hong Kong. While the response of sanctions and tariffs might hit an emotional chord, it would be terrible public policy. A trade war with China is something that neither side can “win” because trade is not a zero-sum game. Additional tariffs on Chinese goods would simply inflate prices for Canadian consumers, and punish ordinary Chinese people for the cruelty of their unelected authoritarian government. Being forced to live under CCP rule is punishment enough, we don’t need to make matters worse by shutting Chinese goods out of the global market. Any sanctions, or prohibitions, should be limited to high tech products with national security concerns, like Huawei’s inclusion in our 5G network.
Outside of avoiding a trade war – which would be more symbolism than serious public policy – Canada should immediately make an asylum declaration for those Hong Kongers wishing to flee the tightening grip of the CCP, similar to what the U.K. has done. Canada should welcome Hong Kongers who want to claim refugee status, and in fact, should encourage them to leave, bringing their capital (human and material) with them. A move like this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, either. Throughout the ‘80s and ’90s, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers migrated to Canada, largely in fear of the incoming handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government in 1997. Those migrants brought $4.2 billion with them to Canada to start their new lives as Canadians. Hong Kongers should be able to flee their homeland before military tanks roll in to enforce totalitarian laws, and Canada should offer refuge.
Beyond what Canada can directly do for the people of Hong Kong, there are some foreign policy changes that could help further demonstrate Canada’s commitment to liberal values, and to help avoid future events like Hong Kong from happening.
First, Canada should change how we officially treat Taiwan, for the purpose of ensuring that Hong Kong doesn’t become a blueprint for what the CCP can get away with.
Unfortunately, Canada does not officially recognize Taiwan because we still acknowledge the One China Policy. Canada should immediately disregard the One China Policy, establish official diplomatic relations with Taiwan as a sovereign state, and establish a formal embassy in Taipei. Doing this would show the world that Canada is in fact a world leader when it comes to our democratic values and that we are willing to make a bold stance where others aren’t. On top of that, such a move could encourage other O.E.C.D. countries to do the same. A strong, internationally connected and recognized Taiwan is the only way we can ensure that Taiwan and the Taiwanese people do not ultimately fall to the CCP
With Taiwan identified and recognized, Canada should loudly recommit itself to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, add Taiwan to the agreement, and seek to bring our American allies back to the table. While not a perfect trade agreement, from the lens of a free trader, an adopted TPP with US support would significantly empower other countries in the region and would limit our reliance on China, which certainly seems to be in line with the goals of U.S. President Donald Trump. A renewed TPP, signed in Taipei, would demonstrate to the CCP that the west isn’t going to stand idle and let the CCP run roughshod over the region.
Hong Kong, as a beacon of freedom, may be thrown into the dustbin of history well before 2047. The CCP’s recent maneuvering in Hong Kong, along with the bookseller kidnapping scandal, and attempted extradition bill, shows their willingness to destroy almost everything Hong Kong has stood for. Providing refuge for those who want to flee, recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state, and recommitting to international trade, would be the appropriate Canadian response.