57 international scholars sign open letter urging Canadian PM to reconsider Taiwan relations

The letter condemns China's human rights abuses

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — 57 international Taiwan studies scholars have signed an open letter supporting the Canadian government’s management of its current China dispute.

The letter was published Tuesday and lauds Trudeau for remaining dignified in the face of two Canadian citizens arbitrarily detained and another re-sentenced to death at the behest of Beijing. The academics also urge Trudeau to use this opportunity to prioritize and strengthen relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan Studies Co-Chair holder at the University of Ottawa Scott Simon is among the 57 signatories. In an interview with Voice of America, he said the purpose of the letter is to signify the academic community stands by Canada’s decisions and sympathizes with its plight. It is hoped the Trudeau administration holds fast to its current position and follows appropriate legal procedures in dealing with China.

Canada is currently caught in a political tug-of-war, having arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the U.S. China has arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated two Canadian citizens as a response and re-sentenced another to death who was originally accused of heading a methamphetamine drug-smuggling operation.

Canada has urged Beijing to grant the accused, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, clemency.

Simon pointed out that Taiwan is a democratic country and as Canada’s ideological ally should draw its support. He said he hopes after the current China debacle settles, Canada can establish more robust relations with Taiwan. He also urged Trudeau not to succumb to China’s “hostage diplomacy.”

The scholar said Ottawa’s “shock” at the unfair treatment of the three Canadians was a little too naive, as other governments like Taiwan and Japan have already been subject to Beijing’s wrath under similar circumstances, and Taiwan constantly faces the brunt of China’s aggressive behavior. He hopes, therefore, that Canada uses this opportunity to reassess its relationship with Taiwan.

“Canada is a country ruled by law, just like the U.S. and Taiwan,” said Simon, “but China is not.”

“China adjusts laws to meet political objectives. Canada ought to abide by the treaties it has ratified and extradite Meng to the U.S. before attempting to resolve the problem with China.”

Simon went on to talk about Lee Ming-che (李明哲), Voice of America reports. He said Lee is a human rights warrior and hopes China will allow him to return home.

The entire world should be following Lee’s case, he added.

Academics from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Taiwan all signed the open letter which implores Ottawa not to heed to Chinese pressure and change the extradition case from a legal matter into a political bargain.

The Taiwan experts state they have observed China’s aggressive behavior towards Taiwan over the past 10 years and regret it has become the “new normal.” Beijing achieves its objectives through transparent threats and scare tactics but the international community tend to look the other way, they write.

The letter states that Canada and Taiwan are natural allies by virtue of sharing common values including respect for human rights and democracy. Taiwan has long been bullied by China, and perhaps the country’s experience in these situations can help Canada, it explains.

Beijing expressed on Tuesday that it will “firmly defend its companies” and urged the U.S. and its allies to halt their clampdown.