Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Influential, Misinformed Canadian Media Hurts China-Canada Relations: Envoy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Influential, Misinformed Canadian Media Hurts China-Canada Relations: Envoy

Article excerpt

Media hurts China-Canada relations: envoy


OTTAWA - The Trudeau government should spend less time bowing down to Canadian journalists preoccupied with human rights and get on with negotiating an important free trade agreement with China, says the country's ambassador.

Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye blamed the Canadian media for disseminating a negative portrait of his country that depicts it as an abuser of human rights and lacking democracy.

The envoy levelled the accusations during a lengthy interview at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa with The Canadian Press.

Lu's remarks come as the Liberal government and the People's Republic embark on a third round of exploratory talks this month aimed at determining whether the two countries should begin formal negotiations towards a free-trade agreement.

His comments underscore a major cleavage in how the two countries believe their differences over human rights should be addressed.

Canada says the issue is linked to economic engagement with China and wants it part of any formal trade pact.

China disagrees strongly, saying the two issues are not linked.

Lu offered a candid insight into how China views that difference of opinion: the diplomat blamed an ill-informed Canadian media for forcing the issue onto the agenda.

"I think the Canadian government is pressured by the media on this issue," Lu said through a translator provided by his embassy.

"I think that Canadian media is quite influential."

Lu then interjected in English to stress that Canadian politicians sometimes have to "bow before media."

He recommended the approach of his country's ruling communist party as an efficient way of dealing with the media.

"The Chinese Communist Party and the government is good at listening to public opinion and also they do their part to lead and mobilize people for a common cause."

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent, a former journalist, called Lu's remarks "outrageous" and said it should give the Trudeau government pause as it seeks to deepen economic co-operation with China.

"It sounded like a diatribe on the Chinese Communist Party's conception of what the media is supposed to do on behalf of a government in imposing its will."

Lu said when he arrived in Canada four months ago, his top priority was to deepen co-operation between the two countries.

Justin Trudeau and China's leadership have taken steps to expand bilateral relations, with the prime minister travelling to China last summer and then hosting Premier Li Keqiang in Ottawa several weeks later.

Trudeau wants to deepen economic and political relations with China.

But Trudeau has also pledged not to shy away from engaging with China on the sensitive area. He used a speech in Shanghai last fall to say Canada encourages China to do more to protect and promote human rights.

Soon after arriving in Canada, Lu said he was struck by the negative view of his home country that he saw taking shape, mainly in Canadian media. …

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