Caledon Citizen: Nov. 6, 2007 - It's been more than two decades now since then prime minister Brian Mulroney won the respect of much of the western world by pushing the reluctant Commonwealth and U.S. leaders to impose a boycott against South Africa's racist apartheid regime.
Fast forward now to current Prime Minster Stephen Harper like Mulroney, a Conservative - and his gutsy and honorable decision this week to offer a redcarpet welcome to Parliament Hill of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
Following the lead of U.S. President George Bush - who, despite what you usually read and hear about him in the predominately left-leaning media, actually does get some things right - Harper in effect thumbed his nose at the rantings and ravings of the dictatorial Chinese government and welcomed the Dalai Lama with full honors.
It is interesting to note that while China, as you'd expect, claims this action will "gravely undermine" the relationship between itself and Canada, Harper replied that he wasn't about to sell out Canada's push for human rights in China in return for the "almighty dollar."
What is really telling about this - and about Mulroney's strong backing of freedom in South Africa back in the 1980s - is that the Conservative leaders' actions come in sharp contrast to those of the Liberal governments which have run this country throughout the intervening years.
Indeed, the Liberals consistently talk a good game about the pursuit of freedom - and accuse Conservatives of being no-account bigots on that score - yet it seems to be the Conservatives, not the Liberals, who are not subjected to the bully-boy tactics of their international critics, regardless of how much money is tied up in intergovernmental trade.
Even Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, a true Liberal apparently, decided against hosting a function in Ontario for the Dalai Lama. And while Paul Martin did meet briefly with the Tibetan leader in 2004, it was a brief meeting held in the private home of a Roman Catholic archbishop, far from the prying eyes of the media or the Chinese.
China, as everyone knows, is one of the world's worst human rights abusers. Yet we continue to trade with them - and they continue to flood our markets with junk, much of which has had to be taken back to the store for various reasons of late - and no doubt we'll be all aflutter when they host the next Olympics.
Yet Liberals - unlike the NDP it must be said - continue to be reluctant to meet the Dalai Lama for fear of upsetting the tyrants who run China with an iron fist. China, assuming the rest of the world knows nothing about their bloodstained history in Tibet, continues to insist that the peace-loving Dalai Lama is a separatist who uses his religion to camouflage his true intentions.
It is to laugh. Or cry.
While China flatly denies human rights abuses - despite mountains of evidence to the contrary - the Dalai Lama estimates that since he was forced to flee his homeland in 1959 when China forcefully took over the country a half million Tibetans have died at the hands of the Chinese. He says the suppression of religion, language and culture is getting worse, and there is no reason not to believe him on that score, despite China's continuing lies to the contrary.
China even denies Tibet was ever an independent country, even though the entire world knows it was.
In fact, despite this observer's praise for Harper's actions - along with Bush and German Chancellor Angella Merkell, who also met with him recently - the west should be prepared to go much further in expressing its' displeasure at China's ongoing brutality and blatant disregard for the human rights of Tibetans and its own citizens.
As much as Mulroney must be admired for leading a boycott against South Africa, trade between Canada and the apartheid regime was peanuts compared to trade with China.
We know Liberals aren't interested in upsetting the Chinese, but if Harper really means what he says about not allowing the "almighty dollar" to dictate his views on human rights, why not take the next logical step and boycott all things Chinese, including (perhaps even especially) the upcoming Olympics?Now that would be a message worth applauding.