Beijing says Canadian military participation in Chinese sports competition is further proof that it is not losing global support

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, seen here on February 11, 2013, said he was surprised that Canada sent troops.

JASON FRANSON / The Canadian Press

The Beijing Embassy in Canada says the fact that the Canadian military has just sent a “large delegation” to a sports competition in China is further proof that the Asian power is not losing friends.

Canada-China relations are deeply frozen after Beijing locked up two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s detention of a high-tech Chinese executive following an extradition request from the United States. China has banned Canadian pork and beef and severely curtailed purchases of Canadian canola and soybeans.

China has also come under heavy criticism for the way the Beijing-backed administration in Hong Kong is handling unprecedented protests there and for the scrutiny of the internment of around one million Uyghur Muslims in the country. Xinjiang province.

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But the Chinese government, through its representatives in Canada, wants Canadians to know that Beijing is not isolated or losing its support.

He posted a statement on his Embassy in Canada website criticizing a column published in The Globe and Mail last week, titled How China Loses Friends and Alienates People. A column from an American scholar discussed China’s reaction after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets in the NBA, tweeted remarks in support of the protests in Hong Kong and said bullying is behavior self-destruct that will cost Beijing support.

The embassy said the list of China’s friends was growing. “More and more countries are praising China’s foreign policy and development path. China’s friends are all over the world. This is a fact that cannot be erased or changed by the baseless accusations of some people, ”the Chinese embassy said.

“In the future, we will have more and more friends in various fields.

He highlighted the presence of Canada and other nations at the World Military Games, which were held in China from October 18 to 27.

The international participation in the games, which drew “9,308 military athletes from 109 countries, including a large delegation from Canada, speaks volumes in this regard,” the embassy said.

Ottawa did not issue any press releases before or during the games to draw attention to Canada’s participation.

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Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations at the Department of National Defense, said Canada has sent 114 athletes, 57 coaches and support staff.

Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China, said he was surprised that Canada sent soldiers.

He said Canada needs to rethink how it engages with Beijing. “Now that we’ve seen the dark side of China, we need to take a much more realistic approach to China. Yes, we have to involve them … but at the same time, we have to take into account that they can be very brutal if we do something that they don’t like.

Mr. Saint-Jacques said that China’s pressure on other countries and companies to avoid criticism of his conduct is increasing: “Their list of red lines is growing all the time. It used to be Falun Gong, Tibet, and Taiwan. Now it is also Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The Defense Ministry did not respond directly when asked why Canada sent athletes to China even as Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accuses Beijing of arbitrarily detaining former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

The department said Canada “remains deeply concerned about China’s actions, including the arbitrary detention,” added it hoped the games would promote friendship.

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“The spirit of the World Military Games is to create a space for friendly competition between the armed forces,” said Mr. Le Bouthillier.

Chinese expert Charles Burton, who served at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, said National Defense should not have participated in the military sports games.

“Right now there shouldn’t be any celebratory activities between Canada and China, and I would suggest that a major sports competition is to celebrate friendship and so I think it was a mistake for our soldiers to go there, ”he said.

Mr. Burton said Canada’s participation “must be quite offensive” to the families of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. The pair were arrested and later charged with stealing state secrets after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. last December. They have been in prison for almost a year.

Canada’s new Ambassador to China Dominic Barton has made consular visits with Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig over the past week.

Mr Burton, a senior researcher at the Center for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad, said he hoped the Canadian government would not send athletes to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022 because it would indicate “that relations are normal and passively accept what China is doing.

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Conservative MP Peter Kent said it was inappropriate to send athletes to Beijing.

“This is unacceptable. Fundamentally, the government should completely restrict collegiate events at a time when Canadians are held hostage and trade embargoes have been unduly imposed on Canadian contracted sectors,” he said.

Mr. Kent also said Canada should also consider boycotting the Olympics.

An earlier version of this article included an incorrect date for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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