Hong Kong—Democratic Elections

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I have just a couple of questions. I was going to notify the Leader of the Government of these questions. I would like to get the government’s position on what is happening, tragically, in Hong Kong.

We have heard some comments from persons who have worked for our minister about the situation in Hong Kong. There is a great deal of Canadian interest and many Canadians do live in Hong Kong.

Tomorrow is China’s national day. They expect 100,000 people on the streets. It feels and looks like Beijing in 1989. I hope it doesn’t go there at all, but a deal is a deal is a deal. In 1997, in the handover, it was one country with two systems for 50 years, where China would concentrate on foreign affairs and defence, but Hong Kong would be allowed to elect its own chief legislative officer and other candidates there.

China has made very strong statements that the rules have changed. I would love to get your comment, hopefully a forceful comment, on what is taking place politically in Beijing and Hong Kong.

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): I would like to thank you for your question, Senator Munson. We are concerned about the current situation in Hong Kong, and we will continue to monitor it closely.

Canada’s position is very clear. We support the development of democracy in Hong Kong and we are certain that continuing to follow the “one country, two systems” approach is crucial to and part of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. Canada reaffirms its support for universal suffrage in the 2017 election of the Chief Executive and the 2020 election of legislative council members, in accordance with the fundamental legislation and democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. I hope that my answer regarding Canada’s support is sufficiently clear.

[English]

Senator Munson: Thank you very much, leader. I appreciate that candid response. As a member of the Canada-China Legislative Association, I travelled with the co-chair at that time, Senator Plett. We did meet Martin Lee — and I met him many times before — who is a former part of the legislative council in Hong Kong, and a well-spoken and outspoken pro-democracy activist.

He said today:

But Hong Kong people, I think, many of them would not be scared. I certainly would not be scared. And I’ve said it before and I say it again, if I see a tank from the Chinese troops in Hong Kong, I would get myself a bicycle and stand right in front of it.

This is not a young man, and he’s ready to stand and I’m glad to hear that Canada would stand with Hong Kongers.

Do you have any plans to deal with the tens of thousands of Canadians who do live in Hong Kong, or is it too early for those kinds of plans?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: As you said, I think it is too early. We are concerned about the situation in Hong Kong, and we are continuing to follow it closely. As you know, and this is the case in any situation around the world, we will always remain in contact with our representatives on site.