The West has largely stayed silent on the abuses inside China and enabled the CCP to continue them through its partnerships, writes Anastasia Lin in the Toronto Star. This article is part of the Toronto Star's Saturday Debate series.

By Anastasia Lin, March 22, 2021

Canada was counting on a collaboration with the Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The effort collapsed after Chinese customs held up a shipment of vital materials. As a result, Canada has fallen behind allies in administering vaccines, putting its citizens’ lives at risk. That’s what happens when you try to form a partnership with the Chinese Communist regime.

A former senior government official, Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, told reporters she believes it was retribution for Canada’s detention of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of the Chinese telecom company Huawei. This wasn’t an isolated incident. Since Meng’s arrest in 2018, China has also halted imports of Canadian agricultural goods and raw material and taken two innocent Canadian citizens hostage.

Canada is not alone here. After Australia asked for an honest and transparent inquiry into the origin of COVID-19, China retaliated by imposing trade penalties. Following Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s election victory, China broke communication with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and cut the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan by nearly 60 per cent.

Democracies didn’t initiate these confrontations. Instead, they follow a decades-long pattern: Beijing retaliates for Western countries’ lawful actions when they don’t align with the CCP’s interests. Yielding to China’s coercion, economic or otherwise, only emboldens it further.

Partnership with the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) is a time bomb that will eventually explode unless one stops exercising its sovereignty and becomes a tributary state of the CCP. The CCP has shown it can’t be trusted to respect international norms on trade, health, intellectual property and even the liberty of foreigners who visit China.

Canada has tried countless times to form partnerships with the Chinese regime and the result has consistently been one of disappointment. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that the CCP’s aggression is somehow our fault — that we are insufficiently considerate of Beijing’s perspective, or that friends occasionally fight, or that “different cultural norms” foster misunderstandings.

These excuses ignore what the CCP has done to China’s own people. Since 1949, the regime has been directly responsible for the deaths of some 65 million Chinese citizens — and the killing continues to this day. As a native of China, I can tell you that we crave justice and an end to repression as much as anyone.

The CCP’s values are incompatible with the well-being, rights and dignity of both the West and the Chinese people. The CCP is willing to sacrifice human life for its rule, and this mentality is carried through every level of government. That’s why in November 2019, Wuhan officials covered up the coronavirus and arrested courageous Chinese doctors for telling the truth, endangering lives in China and around the world.

The West has largely stayed silent on the abuses inside China and enabled the CCP to continue them through its partnerships. The forced-labour system is a significant source of revenue for Chinese authorities. Local governments have a financial incentive to imprison law-abiding citizens in camps where they make products for export. The business of Western companies helps create those financial incentives.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that Western companies — including Adidas AG, Hennes & Mauritz AB, Kraft Heinz Co., Coca-Cola, and Gap Inc. — have become entangled in China’s forced-assimilation campaign against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which the U.S. State Department and Canadian Parliament have both recognized as genocide.

Residents there are routinely forced into training programs that feed workers to area factories, which supply these companies. Shouldn’t we stop this type of partnership, at least until it confirms that forced labour isn’t part of a company's Chinese supply chain?

The justification for tolerating China’s bad behaviour used to be that China will steadily liberalize. But that hasn’t happened, and countless innocent Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Falun Gong practitioners and other Chinese people continue to perish in prisons or labour camps for exercising their fundamental rights.

By appeasing the CCP, Canada and the West have encouraged it to act with impunity. Only when we hold China accountable as an equal member of the international community can we have meaningful partnership. That’s not blind confrontation but real partnership. The alternative is submission.

Anastasia Lin is an actor, human rights activist and former Miss World Canada. She is the ambassador on Canada-China Policy for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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