18 Nov Visa ban for critical MPs adds to tension
Andrew Tillet and Bo Seo – Australian Financial Review – Monday 18 November
As Mr Morrison emphasised that China and Australia could respect each other’s differences, Foreign Minister Marise Payne urged China to release more than 1 million Uighur Muslims from “re-education” camps, while also expressing alarm over Hong Kong police firing tear gas canisters at pro-democracy protesters.
The visa ban on West Australian MP Andrew Hastie and Victorian senator James Paterson has added a new dimension of tension between Canberra and Beijing.
The two Liberals have been staunch public critics of China’s communist dictatorship over human rights and President Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism but have been told they will not be allowed to visit China unless they “repent”.
They were refused visas to take part in an end-of-year study trip for briefings with Chinese government officials, academics and business figures organised by the China Matters policy think tank.
Senator Paterson and Mr Hastie have both vowed not to back down and were supported by Mr Morrison.
“They were denied visas, which I think was very disappointing,” Mr Morrison said.
“The response by Senator Paterson and Andrew Hastie I thought was spot on, I thought it was very measured, it was very strong, I thought it was very appropriate.
Scott Morrison spoke of his disappointment after two Australian MPs were denied Chinese visas.
“It’s for others to explain as to why they took the view that they did – the Chinese authorities. But we’re an open democracy, we speak our minds as individuals and certainly James and Andrew have always been known for that, we’ll always be who we are.”
Mr Morrison confirmed that a human rights co-operation program with China had been discontinued in August because there was no “forward momentum” on it.
Despite China bristling at criticism, Mr Morrison said he did not think there would be any problems trying to have a dialogue with Beijing.
“We enjoy a very productive economic relationship with China and a broader comprehensive partnership with China. And that comprehensive partnership provides the channels for us to deal with all these issues,” he said.
“We’re not China and China is not Australia. We’re not looking to take up their system. They’re not looking to take up ours. We respect each other’s sovereignty and Australia will always be Australia. Australians will always act as Australians.
“And that is an important part of the points that we make in our relationship, in the same way that China feels strongly about their system and how they will continue with their system.”
Former head of Prime Minister and Cabinet Martin Parkinson told a conference the ban was a sign of China’s “immaturity” on foreign policy.
“All that’s going to do is drive people into entrenched positions, and you’ve thrown away an opportunity to bring a couple of critics to China and to explain to them what you’re doing,” he said.
Senator Paterson said his visa refusal was a fresh reminder of the need for Australia to stand up strongly against China.
“Even if I wanted to change my views and soften them, I feel like it’s impossible for me to do so now that I’ve been issued such a demand from the Chinese embassy,” he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said China made the wrong decision to refuse Mr Hastie and Senator Paterson a visa.
“Across the political spectrum here in Australia, we think that any Australian official, an elected representative, is entitled to express their views, and that shouldn’t be a barrier to them being allowed to visit another nation,” he said.
Senator Payne said China needed to end the arbitrary detention of Uighur Muslims after The New York Times reported fresh revelations over their treatment. “They are not observant of appropriate human rights requirements,” she said.
On Hong Kong, Senator Payne said the government was concerned by escalating violence directed at pro-democracy protesters, and the safety of the large community of expat Australians who might find themselves caught in the middle.