Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said today the federal Liberal government must take a tougher line with China going forward, accusing it of showing weakness in facing aggressive steps by Beijing.
Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Scheer said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also had to hold more responsibility from the World Health Organization (WHO), a body that some people accused of being attached to China.
Scheer said that, to date, the Liberal government has followed a “policy of appeasement” with China. He said the government had done much to secure the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, was arrested during a diplomatic fight over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last year.
“Don’t be fooled by Trudeau’s false statement about China at the moment. We have raised concerns about the failure of this government to defend Canada and its policy of appeasement with the regime in the People’s Republic of China,” Scheer said.
Scheer called for an immediate end to federal funding for the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank and an unspecified inquiry into Chinese exports to prove to the regime “there are consequences to illegally arresting two Canadians and pushing Canadians there. Justin Trudeau refused to do so. He refuse to do it. “
He said Canada’s recent push to secure a place in WHO negotiations for Taiwan – a country which the People’s Republic of China considers a breakaway province – is motivated by politics rather than principles.
Canada supports international coalitions (including the United States, Japan, Australia and others) in calling for Taiwan – which has fared better than other countries during the pandemic – to be granted observer status at a WHO meeting yesterday. WHO finally refused to invite Taiwan, a decision Scheer described as embarrassing.
“Only now have they seen some voting data, they are starting to change their message about it,” Scheer said of the encouragement of the Trudeau government in Taiwan. “Only in the last few weeks has he changed his message altogether and I am sure it is completely dishonest.”
Scheer has explicit booking about the WHO’s track record during the pandemic, citing its initial claim that the virus does not spread easily among people, and warnings against closing borders to member countries such as China, as questionable advice given what we now know about the virus.
WHO also advises against using non-medical masks by the general population, guidelines repeated by Canadian public health officials for weeks – until they change their position last month.
Watch: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s press conference
Trudeau and other cabinet ministers have been careful to avoid leveling criticism of China during this pandemic.
Canada’s supply chain for personal protective equipment is highly dependent on Chinese manufacturers, some of which are controlled by the state. Canada’s manufacturing sector does not have the capacity to meet current medical equipment demand.
Asked about WHO on Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada supports multilateral institutions such as the UN agency. He said no international organization was “perfect” and Canada’s bid for a UN security council seat was rooted in the desire to improve global institutions.
But there are legitimate questions to ask about China’s influence over WHO, Trudeau said.
“I think as we move through this crisis … we must ask questions about the independence and strength of these organizations to be able to do the things that are truly needed in keeping everyone in the world safe,” he said.
“That balance needs to be considered carefully. There will be some real questions around China, of course, in the coming months and years that need to be answered, and we will be part of it.”
Western relations with China have deteriorated in recent months because Asian countries are accused of covering up a new coronavirus outbreak and encouraging WHO officials to praise the pandemic’s response rather than researching its actions.
Some of Canada’s closest allies, notably Australia and the U.S., have called for an independent investigation into WHO’s handling of COVID-19 and China’s role in the early days of the response. China initially threatened Australia with sanctions for questioning the response of the Chinese pandemic.
In the face of global pressure, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday approved an independent evaluation of the country’s new coronavirus response – after the pandemic ended. WHO member countries unanimously support the investigation of the body’s handling of a pandemic.
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