Monday, November 19, 2007

Canada's Beijing diplomats do their best State Department impersonation

Those of us who live and vote south of the 49th parallel are quite familiar with our diplomats deliberately undermining the policies of the president elected by the American people. It appears such betrayal is alive and well north of the border, too (Globe and Mail):

China is making "incremental progress" in human rights and is likely to continue making "steady forward movement" in the future, according to a confidential report by Canadian diplomats in Beijing.

The report, obtained by The Globe and Mail, suggests that Canada's diplomats have a much rosier view of China than those expressed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet ministers, who have been highly critical of China's human-rights record.

The G&M then comes up with the understatement of the year: "There have been growing signs of a rift between the Harper cabinet and the diplomatic service." The only trouble is, the "diplomatic service" appears to be in a parallel universe when it comes to Communist China (emphasis added):

The confidential report by the Canadian embassy in Beijing, obtained under access-to-information law, is filled with praise for many aspects of China's human-rights record, although it also has negative assessments of many issues. It suggests a far more nuanced and cautious view of China than the sharply critical views often expressed by Conservative politicians in recent

The report argues, for example, that China's dissidents are getting better treatment these days, because their prison sentences are often less than five years, which is "a marked contrast" to the jail terms of 15 or 20 years in the past.

The report also maintains that Chinese scholars "continue to enjoy increasing intellectual freedom." It praises the "steady increase in personal freedoms of the average person." And it argues that the Chinese authorities "may be losing the battle to control the Internet."

For sensible people, the notion that "scholars" in Communist China "enjoy increasing freedom" is utterly risible. As for the "battle to control the Internet," perhaps the Canadian Embassy staff didn't notice the cadres signing up Google and Yahoo as heavies in the crackdown.

As for Prime Minister Harper, he can take solace in the rule of thumb we have down here: when the diplomats are this upset with you, you must be doing something right.

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