Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Stéphane Dion’s welcome candour about Tibet and China

The successive visits of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to China and Premier Li Keqiang to Ottawa in September carried some overtones of naiveté on Canada's part – perhaps most notably, the agreement to begin negotiations toward an bilateral extradition treaty, with an apparent emphasis on supposed economic crimes of Chinese citizens to be shipped back to China.

So it is reassuring, and indeed encouraging, that Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion answered questions in late September about Tibet with considerable candour.

Back in June, Randall Garrison, an NDP MP from Vancouver Island, tabled written questions in the House of Commons on what China calls the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).

Story continues below advertisement

Since 1950, when the Chinese army came in, China has asserted full sovereignty over Tibet.

Mr. Dion's answers were particularly about the ability – or rather lack of it – of Canadians to visit Tibet, including the projects of the former Canadian International Development Agency. Even ambassadors were only allowed to visit one project on any one trip. Canadian embassy staffers were kept out. Chinese officials said these projects were no longer relevant to Canada.

Tibet is not an ordinary Chinese province, and any foreigner has to get a permit. Chinese officials are not in the habit of actually refusing entry to Tibet, but they conveniently find excuses not to grant it.

On the other hand, China has sent a whole series of parliamentary delegations to Canada from TAR, from 2009 to 2015.

The Chinese authorities in Tibet don't like to out-and-out refuse visits to TAR to high-level visitors, but they find ways to "routinely attempt to either delay the visits or to make it very difficult to obtain permits," in the words of Mr. Dion. The same pattern appears throughout the years 2010 to 2015.

This is a remarkably candid interpretation for a foreign affairs minister to offer about an apparently friendly government; that is, one so warmly approached by Prime Minister Trudeau. And that's a good thing.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.