Via the ABC:
China is warning Australia to avoid straining bi-lateral relations following criticism from Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on China’s human rights record.
During a foreign policy speech in Sydney on Tuesday, Senator Payne said Australia would continue to advocate for democracy and human rights in China, adding that staying quiet on sensitive issues was not in the national interest.
Senator Payne raised the case of an Australian citizen who has been locked up in China without access to lawyers for a year, and the plight of Uyghur Muslims in China’s far-west Xinjiang province.
“Turning a blind eye to all human rights violations means an acceptance of behaviour that undermines the foundations of international peace and stability,” she said.
Trade between the two countries was worth more than $180 billion last year.
Relations with China — Australia’s most important trading partner — have deteriorated in recent years amid accusations that Beijing is meddling in domestic affairs and influence in the Pacific region.
Souring relations have strained bilateral trade, prompting some business executives to urge Australia’s Government to prioritise economic policy above social advocacy.
Senator Payne’s comments drew a rebuke from China, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying Australia needed to be careful.
“We hope that the Australian side can reflect on and learn the lessons of the recent disturbances in Sino-Australian relations, and meet China halfway,” he said during a daily ministry press conference in Beijing.
‘This is really not good’
China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang it describes as “vocational training centres” intended to stamp out extremism and teach new skills.
Chinese authorities have rounded up, detained and forcibly indoctrinating Uyghurs and other Muslim minority ethnic groups in the far-western region. Islam has effectively been outlawed, with people routinely labelled as extremists and imprisoned for practising their religion.
The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.
Mr Geng said Senator Payne had “ignored the facts”, particularly with her remarks in Xinjiang.
“China has already lodged stern representations with Australia about this, to say this way of doing things is very inappropriate.”
However, several Australian politicians have stepped up criticism of China in recent weeks, despite the risk to trade.
This month, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said China was targeting political parties and universities, triggering a strong reaction from Beijing.
In September, Australia’s security agencies suspected China was responsible for a cyber-attack on the national Parliament and the three largest political parties before a general election in May.
China’s Foreign Ministry denied involvement in any hacking attacks and said the internet was full of theories that were hard to trace.
Australia has moved in recent years to challenge China’s expansion of financial and political influence in the Pacific, which Canberra considers its historical domain.
Bravo Senator Paine. They can take it. They need the iron ore. And do we really want to wonder what kind of reaction we’ll get when we defend the basic human principle that makes our nation tick?
Better to know now and prepare accordingly.