It’s time to admit that travelling to China isn’t safe
If there is room to criticize the Trudeau government around its handling of Canadians being detained in China, it’s on the question of travel safety.
For reasons not entirely clear, Canada has not yet updated its travel advisory regarding travel to and in the country that is now holding at least two Canadian citizens in response to Canada’s arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou last month.
That arrest took place at the request of the United States government, which has a treaty allowing extradition of people charged with breaking American laws. The U.S. government believes Wanzhou skirted sanctions against Iran in violation of the law. Based on the treaty, and the rule of law, Canada did what it had to do even though the arrest has badly strained relations.
After China illegally detained Canadian citizens, questions about travel safety naturally became more urgent. Earlier this month the U.S. advised citizens to “exercise increased caution” in China, due in part to its arbitrary detention of foreign citizens. As of Jan. 9, Canada was still recommending a high degree of caution, but only due to “isolated acts of violence, including bombings and protests.” No word about the additional threat of detention.
Former foreign affairs minister John Manley says he would not travel to China right now, and is advising business executives to do the same.
“I would not, save and except for having a diplomatic passport, go to China at this point in time. I think there’s just too much uncertainty,” Manley told CTV News.
Why hasn’t the federal government updated its travel information to reflect the obvious? China has never been entirely safe for travellers, and it is considerably less so today, based on the state’s actions. It’s understandable that Ottawa doesn’t want to further escalate tensions. But by not broadcasting up-to-date travel safety information it appears out of touch with obvious reality. And it sends the message, to some, that what China has done is not important enough to justify official, public condemnation and warning. It is, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so, political considerations aside.
Other criticisms directed at the Trudeau government, including that he should be personally reaching out to Chinese leadership on the detainee matter, are largely partisan hot air. Opposition Conservative critics want to make it seem as if Trudeau is dragging his feet, but the evidence doesn’t support that. The government, and prime minister, have not been inactive. They have been working diplomatic channels. They have tried to ensure the detainees can access consular services. They have reached out to Canada’s allies abroad for public support and, for the most part, have been successful. (Japan is a notable exception, which is concerning.)
And Trudeau contacted U.S. President Donald Trump and secured his public and diplomatic support. Whatever we may think of the president, his country’s support is essential in matters like this.
There may be a time for Trudeau to get involved, but this isn’t it, and in fact that could further escalate the situation. He is wise to trust his administration and keep his powder dry, even if doing so draws self-serving partisan sniping. Most will see that for what it is. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)