Justice in China and the West

And how western media reports on it

To begin, it must be emphatically stated that the arrest of any person on knowingly false charges is a grave abnegation of morality and a despicable travesty of justice by whichever governmental, law enforcement, or judicial body involved.

The Canadian government has upped its diplomatic pressure to secure the release of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were arrested in China more than 2 years ago for allegedly spying for a foreign entity and illegally procuring state secrets.

The CBC pointed to a “show of solidarity, 28 diplomats from 26 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and Czech Republic” — i.e., western support — for the Canadians outside the Chinese court.


Canada portrays the detention of Spavor and Kovrig as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou who, on 1 December 2018, was transferring planes at Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico from Hong Kong.

The complaints and criticisms in Canadian state media, the CBC, would seem to apply equally or more so to Meng.

  1. “‘It’s not been a transparent process,’ says Canadian diplomat after trial”

On 10 December 2020, Reuters reported, “A Canadian border official on Thursday admitted to giving “incomplete” testimony in court the previous day and having breached a judge’s instruction not to discuss the case as witness cross examination in Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s U.S. extradition hearing resumed.”

Further to transparency, the Canadian government has also claimed that it can’t release certain documents in the Meng case citing national security.

  1. “it’s been ‘an emotional time’ for Spavor, his family and Canadians in general”

And what kind of time is it presumed to be for Meng, her family, Chinese in general, and people who demand transparency and justice? Do their emotions not count?

  1. “It’s been more than two years that he has been held arbitrarily in detention here in China.”

It has been a little bit longer since Meng was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The CBC detailed the extradition charges against Meng: “fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker about her company’s control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.” The Canadian government does not apply those US sanctions.

The Washington Post writes,

International and bilateral treaties required that China provide Canadian diplomats access to the trial, but the court said Chinese law regarding trials on state security charges overrode such obligations…

Zhao Lijian [– the deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department –] said that since the case involves state secrets, it is not heard in open court and no one is allowed to sit in on the trial.

While the western media criticizes secrecy in the two Michael’s case in China, Canada invokes its own secrecy in the Meng case. Robert Frater, a lawyer representing Canada’s attorney general, argued that Meng’s defense team’s “application calls for proper arguments that can only be made in hearings closed to the public because of the sensitivity of the documents.”

Meng’s lawyers complained at the extradition hearing that Canadian officials colluded with the US to arrest their client. Defense attorney Tony Paisana stated Canadian Border Services Agency officers took Meng’s phones, obtained their passwords, and turned everything over to Canadian police who made the data available to the FBI.

Quid pro quo?

Global News quotes US secretary-of-state Anthony Blinken: “We join our partners in calling on Beijing to immediately release the two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.”

Blinken posited (and rightly so): “Human beings are not bargaining chips.”

Previous US president Donald Trump seems not to agree, as he spoke to becoming involved in the extradition case against Meng: “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

PM Trudeau has said the two Michaels are detained on “trumped up” charges.

Western media impugns China’s justice system

Canadian news network CTV states, “Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99%.”

This is corroborated by China Justice Observer: “In China, the conviction rate was 99.965% in 2019 and 99.969% in 2018.”

The reported rates of conviction are sky high, and one wonders how a justice system could be so adept at legitimately achieving such rates. Skepticism seems fair enough. But what do the conviction rates indicate about justice in China overall? Might China be casting a large-mesh net to convict alleged criminals, allowing some suspects with insufficient evidence against them to slip through? Much more information is required to assess these conviction rates.

For instance, if China has illegitimate sky high conviction rates, then in comparison to the US and Canada, one might well expect that Chinese jails are overflowing with prisoners?

Looking at incarceration rates is just one means to put a different lens on what lies behind China’s extremely high conviction rates.

The Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck College, University of London compiles an online database providing free access to information on prison systems around the world: the World Prison Brief at PrisonStudies.org. I used this database to construct the below table.

Rates of Incarceration

In Canada, China, Taiwan, and the United States

StateNumber incarcerated per 100,000Total number incarcerated
China (PRC)1211,710,000
Taiwan (ROC)25860,956
United States6392,094,000

The table reveals that the incarceration rate in Canada is only a little lower than in China. The rate of incarceration is much higher in the USA than in other compared states. The ROC, supported at a distance by many western governments, provides a useful comparable context to the PRC. In Taiwan: “The conviction rate of those that go to trial is more than 90 percent.”

The sky high incarceration rates have a pecuniary purpose in the US: prison labor.

Prison labor has been a part of the U.S. economy since at least the late 19th century. And today it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry with incarcerated people doing everything from building office furniture and making military equipment to staffing call centers and doing 3D modeling.

Kevin Rashid Johnson, who was convicted of murder in 1990 when he was 18 years old, calls it slave labor. In 2018, Johnson supported a nationwide boycott of the commissary. Said he:

I see prison labor as slave labor that still exists in the United States in 2018. In fact, slavery never ended in this country.”

At the end of the civil war in 1865 the 13th amendment of the US constitution was introduced. Under its terms, slavery was not abolished, it was merely reformed.

However, neither Canada nor China get a free pass when it comes to prison labor.

The Rule of Law

Antony Blinken, seemingly without embarrassment, speaks of the United States as upholding “the rule of law globally” in the self-deception or the belief that such is the case. In fact, Washington has always expected other countries to support the international rule of law — although exempting good friends like Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Graham E. Fuller

Law is written morality, while morality is conscious law. We should integrate the rule of law with rule by virtue, pay more attention to the rule of virtue in citizens’ conduct, and encourage citizens to protect their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law while conscientiously fulfilling their duties prescribed by law, which means enjoying rights while performing duties.
— Xi Jinping, The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014): location 2237

Placing the focus solely on conviction rates is casting an aspersion on the rule of law in China.

I have concerns about, not so much the rule of law in China, but the application of sentencing to convicted persons. In particular, I am opposed to the death penalty for a variety of reasons outside the scope of this article.

Nonetheless, insofar as advancing the rule of law in China, it is identified as a cornerstone in the further development of the Chinese nation.

Meanwhile, in Canada, adherence to the rule of lawn is revealed especially when it comes to the state’s strong-arm tactics toward First Nations with its weaponized RCMP.

The ad nauseam allegations of a genocide in Xinjiang

Seemingly separate to the two Michaels in China, but given the close timing suspect, Trudeau allowed a free vote in Canada’s House of Commons on 22 February. Without dissent the parliament declared that a genocide (based on sham allegations) is taking place against China’s Uyghurs. Trudeau and his cabinet, it must be noted, abstained from the vote.

Western countries, led by the United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada — notably those involved in warring against Muslim majority countries ((As detailed by Gideon Polya in his book US-Imposed Post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide.)) — points to crocodile tears over the alleged genocide in Xinjiang.

In the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee (on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues), 39 countries called on China to “respect human rights, particularly the rights of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet.” (Of note is the wording to “respect human rights” and not condemn China for human rights abuses).

Cuba’s UN Representative Ana Silvia Rodríguez Abascal countered with a statement on behalf of 45 countries in defense of China’s treatment of Uyghurs in China.

This is not a matter to be decided by numbers, but 64 countries came out in solidarity with China in Xinjiang. And no Muslim countries are criticizing China over Xinjiang.

It is curious upon what moral basis Canada derives the right to pronounce on genocides elsewhere given that Canada exists as a state founded on a genocide of its Indigenous nations. ((See Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018). Review; Bruce Clark, Justice in Paradise (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999); Splitting the Sky with She Keeps the Door, The Autobiography of Dacajeweiah, Splitting the Sky, John Boncore Hill: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake (John Pasquale Boncore, 2001). Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review; Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance(Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review; James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013); Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada (Black Rose, 1973).)) Canada is profiting from Saudi Arabia’s genocide/humanitarian disaster waged against its southern neighbor Yemen. Further demonstrating the Canadian government’s hypocrisy is its solidarity with Israeli apartheid and failure to condemn Israel’s slow-motion genocide of the predominantly Muslim Palestinians .

China’s Great Crime is to be successful

China has committed the unpardonable crime of being a Communist government and practicing socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Chinese economy is far outstripping western capitalist economies. ((Granted, to what extent a country’s economy is capitalist or socialist is usually not an all-or-nothing practice.)) China ended extreme poverty (and that includes Xinjiang, weird to pull a people out of poverty and be accused of killing them) — something difficult to achieve in Canada and the US. ((Beate Trankmann, the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in China congratulated China on the achievement. Voice of America disputes the achievement.))

China recovered relatively quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic. Its economy maintained positive growth while western economies floundered, and many western health systems still struggle with the pandemic.

The particularly hard-hit US has lashed out at China, with president Donald Trump blaming it for the “China virus.”

The president Joe Biden administration continues the anti-China rhetoric. White House press secretary Jen Psaki even expressed concern about “Russia and China using vaccines to engage with countries in a way where they’re not holding them at times to the same standard the United States and a number of other countries would hold them to on human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of media.”

What standard might that be? That China, unlike the West, provides the COVID-19 vaccine as a “global public good” rather than something to reap a windfall profit from?

If the US, UK, and Canada and western media are so concerned about human rights, justice, freedom of speech, and even freedom of media, then what about their imprisoning and subjecting publisher Julian Assange to what is, essentially, a slow-motion assassination. And for what? For reporting the war crimes of the West. Chinese officials are subdued on the issue. But China Daily published an op-ed that stated, “There’s no doubt that Assange is being persecuted by the US government for fulfilling his role as an independent journalist by publishing leaked documents that are in the public interest.”

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.