Irresponsible 'tough talk' with China is useless, says Canada foreign minister

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks to media at a Cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will keep pressing China to improve its human rights record but has no interest in irresponsible tough talk, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday.

Bilateral ties between the two nations effectively froze in December 2018 when Canadian police picked up a senior Huawei Technologies Co Ltd executive on a U.S. arrest warrant.

China subsequently detained two Canadian citizens and blocked lucrative imports of canola seed.

The minority Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure from the official opposition Conservatives to crack down by banning Huawei from supplying equipment to 5G telecoms networks and stop what it calls Chinese interference in Canada’s internal affairs.

“To those who are seduced by this one-dimensional view I say this: while it is easy to be tough, let’s continue to be smart,” Champagne said, noting China’s economic power and its central role in fighting climate change.

“Let’s not fall into the temptation of tough and irresponsible rhetoric that will generate no tangible results” for the detainees, Canadian farmers, the business community and human rights advocates, he told a special parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations.

Canada would continue working with allies to pressure China over the detention of foreign citizens as well as its clamp down in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region, Champagne said.

In July, Canada became the first nation to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of new Chinese national security legislation. Earlier this month it promised to make it easier for Hong Kong youth to study and work in Canada.

“It is absolutely imperative that advanced democracies like Canada and our like-minded partners work together to protect the international rules that have ensured stability and prosperity for decades,” Champagne said. “It is a challenge we all share. No country will succeed alone.”

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Michael Perry