Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Paterson for his question. Beijing has this week disqualified four duly elected Legislative Council of Hong Kong lawmakers. On 11 November, the 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing agreed to a resolution that outlines disqualification criteria for members of the legislative council, including a specific reference to 'endangering national security'.
It is the view of the Australian government that the disqualification of candidates and members severely undermines Hong Kong's democratic processes and institutions, as well as the high degree of autonomy set out in the basic law in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Australia has issued a statement. Australia calls on authorities to allow the legislative council to fulfil its role as the primary forum for popular political expression in Hong Kong and to remain a key pillar of the rule of law and the 'one country, two systems' framework. We urge the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities to uphold their longstanding commitments and international legal obligations. This is critical to maintaining international confidence in Hong Kong.
This latest measure follows earlier developments that have also concerned Australia and many other nations. It continues an approach that steadily erodes the rights of the people of Hong Kong. Australia and the international community will maintain a consistent focus on human rights and principles of freedom, transparency, autonomy and the rule of law and will continue to monitor developments in this matter closely.
Australia has, with multiple partners, made a number of joint statements on concerning developments in Hong Kong, including previously with Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. We have also done so with partners on the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. These have included the imposition of the national security law, the disqualification of legislative council candidates, the postponement of elections and the violence during pro-democracy protests last year and early this year, including by Hong Kong authorities. The importance of continuing to monitor and speak in defence of the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong is an ongoing focus of the Australian government.
The international community has a very longstanding interest in Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Australia itself has a substantial stake in Hong Kong's success. The city is home to our largest commercial presence in Asia and our biggest expatriate community globally.
Beijing committed to autonomy and freedoms for the Hong Kong people under the 'one country, two systems' principle set out in the Sino-British joint declaration. This is a legally binding United Nations registered treaty. It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be guaranteed by law in Hong Kong. As I said in response to Senator Paterson's first question, Australia and the international community will maintain a consistent focus on human rights and principles of freedom, autonomy, transparency and the rule of law.
I seek leave to make a very short statement.
I thank the Senate. I simply wish to take this opportunity to associate the opposition with the statements made by the foreign minister in that answer and to express our continued bipartisan support for the principles and the concerns raised in relation to Hong Kong.