Meng Wanzhou’s case, Beijing’s response and two legal scandals highlight the ‘rule of law’, as preached – and practised – in Canada and China

By Jerome A. Cohen

I have just published an op-ed on "Meng Wanzhou’s case, Beijing’s response and two legal scandals highlight the ‘rule of law’, as preached – and practised – in Canada and China" (link here). The relevant cases are excellent windows for testing Canada's rule of law as well as the Chinese "justice".   

China’s ADD: Arbitrary Detention Deficit

By Jerome A. Cohen 

Cao Shunli, Courtesy of openDemocracy

Cao Shunli, Courtesy of openDemocracy

Year after year Chinese Human Rights Defenders has done a marvelous job of flagging the PRC’s human rights violations. This most recent report, 5 Years After Death in Custody of Cao Shunli, Human Rights Defenders in China Continue to Face Same Pattern of Abuse, taking off from the anniversary of one of many infamous instances of arbitrary detention and coming on the eve of next week’s UN Human Rights Council session (the Ides of March!), is long but definitely worth the time. 

Canada’s just begun extradition proceeding in Vancouver illustrates what the antidote to arbitrary detention should be — a fair and public judicial hearing. The embattled Prime Minister Trudeau was surely right in condemning the PRC for its arbitrary detention of the two Canadians in retaliation for Canada’s civilized legal process. The PRC and every other country that engages in systemic arbitrary detention give new definition to ADD, which should stand for Arbitrary Detention Deficit! For this the PRC should be brought to account in the media as well as in international legal institutions. In our interdependent world, extradition and its functional kin, whatever the label employed such as rendition, repatriation, deportation, removal etc, is intimately related in many ways to ADD, as currently illustrated in the PRC’s relations with not only Canada but also the United States, Sweden, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other jurisdictions. (See my article co-authored with Yu-Jie Chen on how the two questions are closely connected in the context of Taiwan-China cooperation as an example.)

Canada-China legal war

By Jerome A. Cohen

Some observers think the US-PRC trade war is a good thing since it stimulates some reforms in the PRC economic system. It may be that the Canada-PRC legal war will prove a good thing if it stimulates some reforms in the PRC legal system.

At least it is stimulating world attention to China’s legal system. Until now most of that attention has been bad for Beijing’s image. The PRC is seen to be interfering in Canada’s domestic legal system in absolute contravention of Beijing’s constant proclamations of its own sovereign rights when it is confronted with cases involving foreigners. Moreover, its own legal system is also seen to be dreadful and grossly unfair when the PRC itself handles cases involving foreigners — vague charges against apparently fine people who can be held for many months incommunicado without access to lawyers, family and friends and subject to coercion of various kinds that leaves no marks but stimulates public TV confessions.

The invitation of PRC propagandists for foreign journalists to attend court proceedings in Dalian against alleged Canadian drug smuggler is designed to counteract this situation. Here it shows that not all Canadians are fine people and that their violations of Chinese law can amount to more than minor visa violations, and indeed involve drug smuggling, which has always raised grave concerns today and in the past in both societies. And this case, held in open trial, will try to show that Chinese justice operates in a respectable way that treats Canadians fairly in terms of international human rights standards. It will also, presumably, present the justification for what could be a very long sentence that may not be immediately announced, adding to Chinese pressures upon the Canadian Government, since even the death penalty could be in the offing.