Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following a joint news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Aug. 31, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)In his new role with the Liberal government, Jean was in Beijing last week for the start of a new "high level dialogue" between Canada and China on national security and the rule of law — talks that include breaking ground on an extradition treaty. Word of those talks sparked opposition charges Tuesday that the Liberals were abandoning their human rights principles. Two major human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, questioned Canada's pursuit of an extradition deal, saying it doesn't square with China's rights record, including its widespread use of the death penalty. The controversy comes ahead of Wednesday's arrival in Ottawa of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for talks with Trudeau aimed at deepening economic co-operation, following Trudeau's first to China three weeks ago.
Advocates say China trying to track down dissidents
'Operation Fox Hunt'
"But we're happy to have a high-level security dialogue that will allow Canadian and Chinese officials to talk about a broad range of issues." Even if China wants to bring back legitimate economic criminals, there are widespread human rights concerns about the Chinese legal system, said Amnesty International secretary general Alex Neve. "It's impossible to imagine how you would have an extradition treaty that would line up with Canada's obligations to not send people to face the death penalty," Neve said in an interview. "It's very clear that China regularly seeks the return to China of individuals who are wanted for political reasons or religious reasons."
"As everyone knows, Canada has very high standards in terms of extradition treaties, in accordance with our values."
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Extradition talks 'peculiar': Human Rights WatchSophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said it is "peculiar" for Canada and to be pursing an extradition treaty with China, because it is one of three countries — including the United States and Australia — that have rebuffed Beijing's requests in the past. "I think China's particular interest in pushing this with Canada at the moment is to then be able to say to the U.S. and Australia, 'They did it, why won't you?'" With or without a treaty, "the standard rules of the road are that you cannot forcibly return anyone to a country where they face a well-founded fear of persecution, or ill-treatment," she added.
Ambrose presses LiberalsDuring question period Tuesday, Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose told the House of Commons "that our openness to China should be about encouraging them to adopt our values for human rights, as opposed to us giving into theirs." Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada will address China's use of the death penalty during future negotiations. "With this dialogue, we will be able to push human rights," he replied. "And when it comes to agreements like this, we will be pushing the issue of the death penalty because human rights is an integral part of our government's mandate."
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