01 Jan Marise Payne joins outcry at jailing of Canadians
Primrose Riordan — The Australian — 1 January 2019
The chair of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, Andrew Hastie, says the detention of two Canadians in China vindicates those who advocated against Australia ratifying an extradition treaty with Beijing.
Mr Hastie’s intervention came as Foreign Minister Marise Payne belatedly joined foreign ministers from other Western nations in speaking out against China’s detention of the Canadians following the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
The former SAS commander said the possibility that China had detained the men to hit back at Canada was evidence of Beijing’s approach to the law.
“The Chinese Communist Party is running a totalitarian government … the detention of Canadian citizens to serve Chinese statecraft shouldn’t be a surprise to Western democracies,” Mr Hastie told The Australian yesterday.
Liberal senator James Paterson backed his colleague, saying it appeared “China may be using their criminal justice system as a tool to deliver retribution to Canada”.
“Innocent people should not be pawns in a geopolitical dispute,” Senator Paterson said.
The pair feel vindicated in opposing the ratification of the extradition treaty in 2017 when the Coalition attempted to bring the treaty, signed by the Howard government, into force.
“This is further evidence that our opposition to an extradition treaty with China was prescient and wise. Why would we hand over people to a regime that’s willing to use its criminal justice system as leverage over our closest allies?” Mr Hastie said.
Senator Paterson said: “This is yet more evidence of why Australia should not have an extradition treaty with China.”
Late on Sunday, Senator Payne said Australia was concerned about China’s arrest in mid-December of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and think-tank researcher, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, and hoped they were not being held in retaliation for the legal action against Ms Meng.
“The Australian government has conveyed this position to Chinese counterparts,” Senator Payne told The Australian.
She said Australia believed in the independence of the Canadian judicial system, which China has questioned, and said Australia had also discussed the issue with Canadian diplomats.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek yesterday backed the move, saying the opposition was “deeply concerned” by the men’s detention and supported Canada’s call for their release.
The Foreign Minister’s comments came after the EU, the US, Britain, Germany and France all released statements and after 30 foreign policy experts and former officials signed a petition calling on Australia to advocate for the release of the two Canadian men.
Washington has been keen to extradite Ms Meng to the US to face accusations of the company breaking sanctions against Iran.
China warned Canada that there would be consequences if it did not release Ms Meng.
This article originally appeared in The Australian.