Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

MR Liu Xiaobo

3:53 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—
expresses its disappointment at the Chinese Government’s decision to uphold Liu Xiaobo’s sentence of 11 years in prison on the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’;
notes that Mr Liu has peacefully worked for the establishment of political openness and accountability in China; and
joins calls by the European Parliament and the Governments of the United States of America and Canada that Liu Xiaobo should not have been sentenced in the first place and should be released immediately.

3:52 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—The Australian government does not support his motion. The Australian government again places on record its objection to dealing with complex international matters such as the one before us by means of formal motions. Such motions, as I have said before in this chamber, are blunt instruments. They force parties into the black-and-white choice of supporting or opposing them. Furthermore, they are too easily misinterpreted by some audiences as statements of policy by the national government.

For the record, the government is disappointed that the Beijing High Court has rejected the appeal of Dr Liu against his verdict of incitement to subvert state power and upheld his sentence of 11 years in prison. We are concerned by the nature of the charges and the very harsh sentence meted out to Dr Liu, who was seeking to exercise his rights of freedom of expression, which are guaranteed by Chinese law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed. The outcome of the legal process would seem to be incompatible with international norms. We urge the relevant Chinese authorities to take into account the strong reaction of members of the international community and we call for Dr Liu’s immediate release.

While recognising that China has made some progress in human rights over the last 30 years, the government remains concerned about human rights in China. However, we do not believe that either the Australian government’s careful management of the complex and important relationship with China or progress on human rights, including Dr Liu’s case, will be materially assisted by this Senate motion.

3:55 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—What an extraordinary statement that was from this feckless government on the release of a much more courageous man in Liu Xiaobo, who is currently imprisoned in China, sentenced to 11 years for having the audacity to circulate a charter of democratic rights on behalf of the people of China who want democracy. In the course of that statement, the minister rose to the full confrontation of the Beijing bosses who have organised for Mr Liu Xaiobo to be locked up in this way and said that he was disappointed and concerned. Then he dismissed the Senate right to call for this man to be released immediately. But the government calls for his immediate release.

So what we have here is a government saying that it does not believe that this parliament has rights that the government takes to itself. It does not believe that this parliament and this Senate chamber in particular should have the right of the executive to make statements on issues as important to global democracy as the release of this great figure—this Nelson Mandela of China—who is incarcerated. The government does not believe that this chamber should have the right to express the same sentiment that the minister just expressed. What an extraordinary statement that the minister just made. What an extraordinary statement of arrogance, in amongst the weakness of its approach to China, towards this Senate. The government thinks that it can make that sort of statement but that the Senate should not. The government should be ashamed of itself.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Bob Brown’s) be agreed to.