An Australian travel warning for China

Via Michael Sainsbury at Crikey:

The arrest of Chinese-Australian author and democracy promoter Yang Hengjun has triggered an overdue but welcome change in attitude by Canberra towards the fate of Australians effectively kidnapped by Beijing’s authoritarian government.

It’s probably wishful to think that Yang, who was originally detained in January 2019 on spying charges, will be released because of this change. But there is another goal here: making sure that accusations of spying are comprehensively denied at the highest levels in Canberra. In that way Beijing should at least give a second thought to treating any other Australian in such appalling fashion.

As Crikey has noted, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been unusually direct in her criticism of China over Yang’s arrest. She has baldly stated that Yang is not an Australian spy and has all but said that he has been at least mistreated, if not tortured:

“Our post is continuing to advocate with Chinese authorities to ensure that he is detained in a manner which is in accord with international obligations,” she noted. The methods of Chinese interrogators are well documented and breach many international norms.

For too long, Australia’s diplomats in both Beijing and Canberra have peddled a softly, softly approach to Australians detained by Beijing for either dubious — or as in Yang’s case, utterly spurious — reasons.

There has been a long string of Australians locked up in China after business disputes either at the national level or at a local level, where foreign businesspeople have crossed local Communist Party officials. These include Rio Tinto iron ore salesman Stern Hu, Guangzhou-based business people Matthew Ng and Charlotte Chou, and Shandong investor Edward Du. All did significant jail time.

Yang’s case fits somewhere in that narrative, albeit that the current frisson between Canberra and Beijing is more overtly political than it was when Hu became the figurehead for the battle over iron ore prices between Beijing and the mining sector. That stoush was eventually won by the big miners despite Hu’s imprisonment.

Yang was originally detained for what appears to be a combination of an obscure domestic political imperative, perhaps related to the fact he once worked for the Chinese diplomatic apparatus, as well as being a particularly outspoken and popular exponent for political change in China.

Lowy Institute China program director Richard McGregor is spot on when he says that Yang’s case has been amplified by the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Canberra. He added that while Yang’s detention may have started as personal it has become part of the broader Australia-China narrative.

For Beijing, the case acts as a warning to both Chinese-Australians and Chinese residents of Australia (such as academic Feng Chongyi who was detained for a week in 2018) that they are not free to speak out against the party. It’s also more generally a warning to any Australian businesspeople, journalists, academics or advocates that they could be plucked by plain clothes police on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai.

Quite right. Indeed, Beijing has been so reckless with its hostage diplomacy that this is one of the primary reasons why I think China’s globalisation period has peaked.

What company executive wants to visit China these days for sensitive business discussions?

Increasingly that will apply to Hong Kong as well.

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  1. As an independent economist whose covered China for 19 years and has been to Beijing many times – but is critical of Xi – there is no way I’m travelling to China any time soon.

  2. Against that, My Lord Peter Hartcher is pleasuring himself in today’s SMH, fast-tracking thousands of “talented Hong Kongers who would value Australia’s democracy”. By golly he’s right, 270,000 net migration is far too low.

    • Fantastic idea. Here I was, trying to scrape together enough money for a deposit on a home but sure, let’s just bring in more people, with more money, to make that even more difficult.

      The time has come for young Australians to leave and become economic refugees.

        • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

          Out into regional Australia, because our regional areas will be the cultural springs that replenish Australia’s cultural well – cities are demographic grave yards, sucking in people and population but not actually generating a sufficiently high birth rates to sustain themselves.

          When negative interest rates are no longer sufficient to allow US Shale Oil producers to enter the market as the swing marginal producer, oil will finally start rising beyond the relatively narrow range the powers that be have tried to hold it in, and the global instability seen in so many other parts of the world will start arriving in the West. If our cities aren’t hell holes by then, then they soon will be.

          At that point regional Australians main task will be battling to ensure the entitled mindless consumers and culturally hostile servant classes that have been imported for our elites benefits, remain confined to those shyt holes and don’t go marching out into the countryside demanding what little social capital remains, until they die out or are finally reabsorbed into Australia proper.

          • “until they die out or are finally reabsorbed into Australia proper.”

            You sure of the direction of the absorption?

          • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

            Regional areas are the only areas with positive replacement birthrates – only issue is that the young people usually move to the cities and often never return, although that is changing… high house prices are driving many young Australians out of our stolen cultural focal points, while congestion, quality of life, and cultural enrichment from Africa, India/Pak and the rest of the middle East will act as the major catalysts driving out the rest out in the future.

            We know this will happen – it is already happening in the UK, with Muslim towns emerging as the locals flee their incompatible cultural values/pursuits (fortunately in Australia their contribution has thus far largely been contained to the demographic grave yards of our major cities) and white flight from pretty much any city or suburb any where in the world that has ever experienced any significant African migration, as the inevitable urban decay follows them.

            You can pack as many people from around the world into our major cities and fortunately most of them and their cultural contributions will perish in the same demographic grave yard.

            As the world moves from the economic paradigm of relative resource abundance to relative resource scarcity everything will change and by change I mainly mean reverse.

  3. There’s an Australian sitting in a London prison waiting extradition to the US.
    How about a travel warning for the UK as well?
    Australia is being a hypocrite.

  4. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    I think it’s time “the West” made its peace with Russia and strengthened it’s Economic ties with India.
    We might even need to recruit the Islamic world to help contain this 1.4 billion person, Orwellian police state/Authoritarian dictatorship.

    • I’ve been told that it’s written that Muslims & Christians will come together to fight the Great Satan – although I’m not sure they had this one in mind back then…… probably more Abrahamic than that.

  5. Anyone working in national security and cyber security should especially be careful these days, and that’s not just government officials but private companies that have staff with national security clearances such as NV1/2 PV, even a baseline I wouldn’t enter that country on.

  6. I can slag off at the CCP all I like because I know I have no entitlement to Hukou and the worst they can do to me is deny me a visa to travel there or boot me out.
    The mugs who get caught are those who slag off at the CCP and were born there but retain PRC residency status on the sly while having another nations passport. They do this because Hukou gives benefits (such as running a business) which are denied to foreigners. They travel there thinking they will not be noticed, and low and behold land themselves in detention.
    The PRC will turn around and say these people are still considered PRC citizens 1st! because they have not FORMALLY renounced their Hukou status. They will then tell the adopted foreign nation consular officials trying to get access to go take a jump.
    As according to the law one can have either a PRC passport or foreign passport, but NOT both.
    Article #3 its been in their statute books since 1980.
    The Australian Government should make it crystal clear to people born in China who gain an Australian passport, that they are powerless to help them if they get into trouble while traveling inside China if they do not formally renounce their Chinese residency rights.