Thursday, January 20, 2011

Democratic contrasts

In June, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Canada. His visit attracted some controversy in terms of the Prime Minister's office helping Hu keep critics away and there being no press conference held:
Chinese President Hu Jintao was kept well-insulated from controversy during his visit to Ottawa on Thursday, thanks in part to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, which went to some lengths to keep Hu away from media outlets that have been critical of the Chinese government.

The PMO, reportedly bowing to terms laid out by the Chinese consulate in recent weeks, organized Hu’s visit around specific demands to keep two media outlets away from the proceedings — New Tang Dynasty TV and the Epoch Times, according to sources.

In the four public appearances in Ottawa on Thursday between Harper and Hu, media contact was kept to an absolute minimum, with no press conference, as is standard procedure when foreign leaders visit Parliament.
By contrast, Hu Jintao was in Washington yesterday on a U.S. state visit and held a joint press conference with Obama. We saw an uncomfortable Jintao being needled about human rights.

While press conferences may inevitably produce platitudes, they are still important parts of the democratic process. One should have properly happened here in Canada, this summer, during Jintao's visit.