Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Canadian Reporter Barred From Luncheon With Visiting Chinese Official

Sun Media’s Christina Spencer kept out of Yang Jiechi welcome lunch organized by Canada-China Business Council

By Matthew Little
Epoch Times Staff
Jun 24, 2009

A member of the Parliament Hill press gallery was barred from attending a Tuesday luncheon with China's foreign minister in a move reminiscent of a similar incident in 2005 when the same business lobby barred reporters from two media outlets from a dinner event welcoming Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

The luncheon with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was hosted by the Canada China Business Council (CCBC) in Ottawa at the bequest of the Chinese regime.

Christina Spencer, a Parliament Hill reporter for Sun Media who has written articles critical of the communist regime, was turned away when she tried to attend the event at the Chateau Laurier Hotel.

A spokesperson for the council said the reporter was barred because she hadn't been invited. An emailed response from Victor Hayes, CCBC's director of public relations, said space was limited and so only a small number of media were invited.

The luncheon came on the heels of a meeting between Yang and Prime Minister Stephen Harper where a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's office said the two discussed “the entire range of issues between our two countries.”

Attempts by the Parliament Hill Press Gallery to reach the CCBC had gone unanswered by Tuesday afternoon, but the gallery's vice president, Chris Rands did tell the Epoch Times the journalists' association was concerned about what happened.

“We are dismayed by the Canada China business Council’s decision to bar a member of the parliamentary press gallery from attending their event,” Rands said. “We will examine this issue at our next meeting later this week.”

The invitation for Tuesday's luncheon attracted the interest of Canadian China scholar Charles Burton.

In a recent blog post he noted that it was the Chinese regime and not the Canadian government that asked the business lobby group to make arrangements for Mr. Yang in Canada. The CCBC is an association that includes some of Canada’s largest corporations with business interests in China. The luncheon was to be attended by around 150 of Canada's business leaders. Journalists from Canwest News Service, CBC, CTV and others were able to attend.

In 2005, both The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty Television were kept out of a CCBC organized banquet for Hu Jintao in Toronto. The CCBC at the time again cited “space limitations” for excluding the two media outlets that frequently carry articles highlighting human rights abuses of the Chinese regime.

Kate Heartfield with the Ottawa Citizen did attend Tuesday’s luncheon and blogged afterwards about the contradiction presented by Canadian-China business communities frequent attempt to argue that doing business with China's authoritarian regime had nothing to do with politics.

“But that's a lie. The Canada-China business community doesn't avoid politics; it just avoids political opinions that run contrary to the propaganda spread by the totalitarian regime,” she wrote, citing some charged comments that appeared in the speech of the Chinese foreign minister about Tibet.

“Bombardier was a major sponsor of the lunch. How is it not interfering with China's affairs when a heavily taxpayer-subsidized Canadian company like Bombardier builds a rail link into Tibet to help China speed up its cultural genocide there? Maybe politics and business aren't that easy to separate after all.”

“And how come Canada's not allowed to interfere in China's affairs, but China's allowed to run guns to the likes of Robert Mugabe and Than Shwe? Why doesn't China stop intefering in the affairs of Burma and Zimbabwe?”

Heartfield wrote that she would have like to ask Yang these questions “but the media weren't allowed to ask him anything.”

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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