NZ and Australia’s deep concerns about China’s human rights abuses

Australia and New Zealand have raised deep concerns about human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in China.

Citing “the growing number of credible reports” of severe violations, both countries’ foreign ministers say the abuses are occurring in the Xinjiang region.

The violations include “restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.”

Although both Australia and New Zealand have welcomed new coordinated sanctions announced by the UK, US, the EU and Canada, neither country has announced any sanctions of its own.

Evidently this is because Australia and New Zealand lack Magnitsky-style laws that would allow the swift rollout of targeted sanctions against individuals for human rights abuses.

Australia’s government is expected to table draft legislation later this year.

The Australian and New Zealand foreign ministers welcomed the measures announced by their western counterparts.

Foreign ministers Marise Payne and Nanaia Mahuta say: “We share these countries’ deep concerns, which are held across the Australian and New Zealand communities.”

“Since 2018, when reports began to emerge about the detention camps in Xinjiang, Australia and New Zealand have consistently called on China in the United Nations to respect the human rights of the Uighur people, and other religious and ethnic minorities.”

The pair said they wanted to “underscore the importance of transparency and accountability” and reiterate the call for meaningful access for UN investigators.

They called on China “to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts, and other independent observers.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra hit back at Payne’s statement, accusing the Australian government of engaging in “the despicable tactic of smearing China.”

Such attempts were “entirely futile,” the embassy added.

The Australian government should “reflect upon and address its own problems, in particular the killings of innocent civilians by Australian overseas military personnel, the worsening situation of racial discrimination, the long-standing insufficiency in the protection of the rights of Aboriginal peoples as well as the inhumane treatment of detainees in the offshore detention centres,” the embassy says.

Britain and the EU are taking joint action with the US and Canada to impose parallel sanctions on senior Chinese officials involved in the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

These sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes on four officials.

UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab say China’s treatment of the Uighur minority is“the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war.”

In response, the Chinese government is accusing western governments and organisations of spreading “lies” about the situation in Xinjiang and interfering in China’s internal affairs.

Beijing has also sanctioned five members of the European parliament.

An Australian government source confirmed it had been part of discussions with its counterparts ahead of the coordinated joint sanctions being announced.


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