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. The minister's frank assessment comes as the Liberal government moves to expand trade with China, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first visit to China and a return visit by its premier late this summer. The Montreal-based, Canada Tibet Committee suggested the travel restrictions are part of China's ongoing efforts to mask human rights abuses in the region it has controlled since the 1950s, when its invading forces drove out Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.
'No rejections of high-level visits'
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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."