David Emerson must ensure that trade does not trump human rights in China

Shanghai, photo by Phogel MONTREAL – Jan. 12, 2007 – David Emerson, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, must ensure that any commercial agreements signed during his visit to China next week respect Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge that Canada’s trade interests with China will not “sell out” human rights

Minister Emerson will lead two business delegations to China January 14 to 19 for meetings aimed at strengthening Canada’s bilateral commercial relationship with China. Mr. Emerson will also oversee the signing of a Science and Technology Agreement and meet with various ministers from the Chinese government, including Li Shenling, Minister of Communications, and Wang Xudong, Minister of Information Industry.

Rights & Democracy expects that Minister Emerson’s activities will reflect Prime Minister Harper’s assertions that Canadians do not want their government to “sell out to the almighty dollar” on issues like democracy and human rights, a view he expressed en route to last November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Hanoi. It is imperative that such a view inform the Science and Technology Agreement and Minister Emerson’s meetings with Minister Li and Minister Wang.

The export of Canadian technology to China has been the source of well-founded and well-documented human rights concerns. Two Rights & Democracy reports, China’s Golden Shield and Human Rights at Risk on the Cyber-battlefield: The Sale of Security and Surveillance Technology to China, detail how purportedly “neutral” Canadian technology products sold to China could undermine its human rights commitments.

“Canada and Canadian corporations profiting from relations with China have a legal and moral obligation to exercise due diligence and assess the potential impact its products could have on human rights in China,” said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “We expect Prime Minister Harper’s laudable assertion that trade should not trump human rights in China will be reflected in Minister Emerson’s mission next week.”