Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

China: Human Rights

3:30 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Payne) to a question without notice asked by Senator Di Natale today relating to human rights in China.

On Monday night the ABC's Four Corners program dedicated an episode to the appalling human rights abuses that are occurring in China's Xinjiang region right now while the world watches on. Xinjiang has a Turkic Muslim population of 13 million people, approximately one million of whom are arbitrarily detained without any legal process. They are detained for weeks, months and, sometimes, years. Those incarcerated are subjected to forced labour, sometimes to torture and to forced political indoctrination.

Outside the camps Uygurs and other Turkic Muslims are denied the right to freedom of movement, privacy and freedom of religion. The mass surveillance that is occurring in Xinjiang is terrifying. People going about their lawful daily business are watched constantly by the state. They are forced to give their biometric data, and face and voice recognition technology is being used as a tool of repression. The revelation in the Four Corners program that Australian universities seem to be complicit in the development of this technology is even more appalling.

And Four Corners showed us the Australian human face of this dedicated oppression thanks to the bravery of those who spoke out—and we acknowledge them. It brought us the story of Sadam Abudusalamu's wife, Nadila, and his toddler, Lutfy, who were trapped in Xinjiang. Through no fault of their own, Nadila and Lutfy were separated from Sadam before Lutfy's birth, and the Chinese authorities have prevented them from being reunited. Sadam has never met his son. He wasn't there to support his wife through the last part of her pregnancy. He didn't witness his son's birth. He says he is totally broken mentally, financially and physically.

It is a great relief that Lutfy has been granted Australian citizenship and that the Foreign Minister has intervened to call for Sadam's family to be permitted to travel to Australia. What is required now is for Nadila's visa to be fast-tracked and for the government to keep up the pressure on the Chinese government. And many other Australian Uygurs are affected by China's brutal crackdown. Almas Nizamidin's mum is interned in a camp and his wife is in prison simply for studying in Egypt. Amnesty International classifies her as a prisoner of conscience, and she is waiting for a spousal visa, which must also be fast-tracked. There are more than 30,000 Uygurs in Australia. In some form or other, all of these people have a friend or relative in a camp.

The Greens are calling on the government to take urgent action in the face of what is cultural genocide. The Australian government's decision to sign on to a joint statement of the UN Human Rights Council was welcome—indeed, I said that to the minister in question time—but we must do more. It was disappointing that the minister was unable to provide me with a concrete number of Australian citizens who are currently detained. It was also disappointing that the minister couldn't detail in her answer to my question what concrete steps the government will be taking to pressure China to stop this campaign of repression.

Of course, we need to work with other countries in our region to make sure that independent monitors have access to Xinjiang. But we need to do more. We need to show some courage. We need to show some leadership. We should be implementing targeted sanctions, like visa bans and asset freezes, against those individuals who are linked to these abuses.

Australia has in the past been a leading voice on human rights in the international arena. Over recent years we have been absent when it comes to ensuring that human rights are protected around the world. If there was ever a time for Australia to start actually leading the way on human rights abuses, it is now.

Question agreed to.