OTTAWA — A career diplomat with more than 30 years serving Canada’s foreign policy was appointed ambassador to China by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
Jennifer May, who was Canada’s ambassador to Brazil for three years, will take up a post in Beijing that has been vacant for nine months.
Ms May, who has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and German from Laval University, joined the State Department in 1990. After learning Mandarin, she embarked on a four-year mission as a junior high school diplomat in 2000, followed by stints at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong and Thailand. She also worked abroad in Germany and Austria.
“A dedicated civil servant, Ms May has many years of diverse experience in international missions,” the Prime Minister said in a statement. This experience, combined with his extensive knowledge of Asia, will enable him to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canada’s interests in China.”
The appointment comes as Ottawa is trying to rekindle a now frosty relationship with Beijing after Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were released a year ago. But the Prime Minister specifies that Ms May will have a mandate to “defend democratic values, human rights and the rule of law”.
In its “Departmental Plan” for 2022-2023, Global Affairs Canada says that “Canada’s strategic and evolving policy toward China” will be integrated into the broader strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.
The ministerial plan states that Canada will use this framework to advance commercial interests, but “will confront the Chinese government where the values and interests of the two countries diverge and cooperate where interests converge.”
“Canada will continue to speak out against China’s oppression of Uyghurs, Tibetans and all religious minorities,” read the plan released earlier this year. Regarding Hong Kong, Canada will continue to adjust its approaches in light of the rapid deterioration in the individual rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens since the implementation of the National Security Law in 2020.”
After “The Two Michaels”
The last two ambassadors to China were both considered to be senior political figures: first former Liberal Minister John McCallum, then business leader Dominic Barton, who had been commissioned by Mr Trudeau to get the sensitive file but critical “The Two Michaels” appeared .
Mr Barton left his post last December, three months after the two Canadians were released. Michael Spavor, a business consultant working in China, and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat working in China for the International Crisis Group, were arrested in December 2018.
Canada believes it was political retaliation by Beijing after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport at the request of the United States.
The United States accused Ms. Meng, as well as the Huawei company, of violating American sanctions against Iran. MM Kovrig and Spavor were arrested days after Ms Meng was arrested in Vancouver. They were released in September 2021 after more than 1,000 days in detention when the United States agreed to let Ms. Meng return to China.
This dispute has seriously deteriorated relations between Canada and China.
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