'Listen carefully' to concerns, Freeland says as China calls protesters 'near' terrorists
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2019 11:32AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 14, 2019 7:35PM EDT
As China condemns pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong as engaging in "near-terrorist acts," Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says it's essential for governments to listen to their people – and "it’s a mistake" to do anything else.
Speaking at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Freeland was pressed on whether China labelling protestors as "terrorists" was, in her view, concerning.
"You will never go wrong, as a government, when you listen carefully to the concerns of your people," Freeland said.
"It can be tempting to label those concerns not an expression of a genuine desire of people, but to label it as something else – I think that when it comes to how we try to practise politics in Canada, it's a mistake to do that."
Flights have resumed in Hong Kong after protestors stalled travel at the international airport as a part of their pro-democracy demonstrations. Police and protestors have been involved in violent clashes and over 600 people have been arrested as the Chinese military amasses on the Hong Kong border.
Speaking to the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, Freeland said Canada is watching.
"This is a turbulent moment in the world and one of the responsibilities of the Government of Canada in turbulent times is to pay particular attention to Canadians who find themselves either as residents or as visitors to places where there is turbulence," she said Wednesday.
Freeland also recommended Canadians consult the government’s travel advice before heading to Hong Kong, adding that the government is "very intentional" about the travel advice it gives.
Canada's travel advisory for Hong Kong was updated Wednesday morning. It warns Canadians to "exercise a high degree of caution" when travelling to the region, specifically identifying the "ongoing large-scale demonstrations" as a source of risk.
The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong is "very active," according to Freeland. She told Canadians in the region to "feel free to get in touch."
"We are there to support Canadians around the world." Freeland said.