Thursday, 25 July 2019
China: Human Rights
I've got to say it's shocking that the government would refuse to consider this motion. This motion was deliberately framed in a way that uses the government's own language. This reflects what the government has been saying about the situation in China. I've spoken already in this chamber this week about the awful human rights abuses being committed by the Chinese government against the Uygurs and other Turkish Muslims, including some who call Australia home. I'll say it again: over one million people are being arbitrarily detained, some of them subjected to torture, with a terrifying surveillance state following every move. People are denied their rights to freedom of movement, privacy and freedom of religion, and all of this is occurring while the world watches. This was an opportunity for the government to back up some of the statements it has already made public, and it squibbed it. A statement from the Senate would have sent a powerful message to China that we don't accept the cultural genocide that is going on right now.
I indicate at the outset that the opposition will continue on this occasion to observe the conventions in relation to formality, but, given the importance of this issue and the focus on this issue, I do wish to make a short statement in relation to Labor's views. As I have previously indicated on behalf of the opposition, we are deeply concerned by continuing reports of the mass detention and other violations of human rights of Uygurs and other Muslim minority groups in China. Labor supports the letter, co-signed by 22 countries, including Australia, at the Human Rights Council, calling on the Chinese government to uphold its own national laws and international obligations to respect human rights, including freedom of religion, and to refrain from arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Muslims in Xinjiang.
This week, along with my colleagues Senator Keneally and Mr Dreyfus, I met with members of the Uygur Australian community. Their situation is heartbreaking, and some of it has been in the public arena. No Australian could help but be moved by their circumstances. We have raised our concerns in a number of statements and public comments. We fully support the government in its efforts to raise the issue of Uygur Australians with their counterparts in Beijing and to secure consular access for any Australian citizens detained.
The Australian government is deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. We urge China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uygurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang. We will continue to raise our concerns directly with the Chinese government and through the UN Human Rights Council and we would welcome the opportunity to assess the facts of the situation in Xinjiang ourselves. We will continue to advocate for Australian citizens with the Chinese authorities.