Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie attended the controversial reception put on by the Chinese Consul General and held firm to his position that it’s important to keep lines of communications open, while still calling China’s record on human rights “questionable.”
While tensions have increased recently with the Hong Kong protests and the emprisonment of two Canadians in China, Brodie still believes keeping up good relations with China is better than shutting doors.
“How are we ever going to resolve our problems without talking about it?” Brodie said.
He said there are many things done by the Chinse government, for example, the oppression of the Falun Gong and Tibetans and the Tiananmen Square events 20 years ago that make him angry.
However, his presence at the reception shows “respect” but shouldn’t imply that he endorses various actions by the Chinese government.
“I’m not here to endorse the Chinese government or the consul-general, I just don’t think you solve anything by ignoring it,” Brodie said.
In Richmond, many issues have a cultural aspect, like the rainbow crosswalk on Minoru that saw a lot of opposition, but Brodie said these issues need to be talked about.
As for people who took a stand and said they wouldn’t come to the reception, Brodie said “that’s their approach, that’s not my approach.”
A vote was held on Wednesday, almost 65 per cent said they disagreed or disagreed strongly about foreign government sponsoring events at the convention. This question will be dealt with by a UBCM task force later.
Before the reception began, a group, led by Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, gathered to protest the reception, with people holding signs saying “Stop CCP influence” and “Release two Michaels.” Some people were holding the Turkestan flag, which represents the Uyghur people in west China who have been oppressed by the Chinese government.
They were gathered outside the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel by Canada Place where the UBCM conference was taking place – Richmond Centre Green party candidate Francoise Raunet was at the protest.
After a few speeches, West led the group to the doors of the reception and left two boxes of Tim Hortons doughnuts with pictures and signs for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor who have been detained by the Chinese government since early 2019.
Raunet said she was at the protest because she wanted register her disapproval of “wining and dining of elected officials” by the Chinese government.
“Canada should not be afraid to call out human rights violations, whether they are committed by China, Saudi Arabia, or our closest allies like the United States,” Raunet said. “Influence peddling at events like this UBCM dinner makes it harder for us to do that.”