China's foreign affairs minister Wang Yi and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion leave a joint press conference on June 1, 2016. (Photo: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)Dion describes the problems in a written response to questions from New Democrat MP Randall Garrison that was recently tabled in the House of Commons.
'No rejections of high-level visits'Dion outlined five visits to Tibetan regions by Canadian diplomats between November 2010 and September 2015. He also detailed eight visits to Canada by Tibetan parliamentarians at the behest of China's National People's Congress between March 2009 and November 2015, saying his department was "not aware of any restrictions" on them. Not so, when it came to Canada's trips to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China, Dion said. "While there have been no rejections of high-level visits, TAR officials routinely attempt to either delay the visits or to make it very difficult to obtain permits," Dion wrote.
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Diplomatic visits 'tightly managed'"Even after the projects were completed, Canada-based embassy staff continued to be denied permission to visit project partners as TAR officials would not hesitate to inform the embassy that the projects were no longer of relevance to Canada." Overall, the diplomatic visits are "tightly managed by local authorities. TAR Foreign Affairs Office officials generally accompany the delegation on the entire visit. Access to local residents can be quite limited," Dion said. On the most recent visit, to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in September 2015 for a tourism and cultural event, three Canadian diplomats were "not given substantive opportunities to visit with senior government officials," the minister wrote. Carole Samdup, executive director of the Canada Tibet Committee, called on the government to stop future Tibetan delegations from visiting Canada "until there is full reciprocity for Canadian diplomats in Tibet."
"It's a question of basic diplomatic respect between our two countries. Why does Canada allow itself to be treated as a second-class partner in its relations with China?""What does China have to hide?" asked Samdup. "It's a question of basic diplomatic respect between our two countries. Why does Canada allow itself to be treated as a second-class partner in its relations with China?" Dion said none of the Canadian requests to visit Tibet were "explicitly made" to monitor or investigate human rights violations. But he added: "better understanding the human rights situation in TAR is an important objective of all embassy travel to the region."