Australia’s plan to slap sanctions on China

In a joint statement with New Zealand, Australia has backed international sanctions against two Chinese officials for “serious human rights abuses” against Uighur Muslims.

Among other mistreatment of the ethnic minority, it’s believed about one million people have been detained over the past few years in what the Chinese state defines as “re-education” camps, where allegations of torture, forced labour and sexual abuse have emerged.

The measures, announced overnight by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, have now been endorsed by Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in a joint statement.

“The Australian and New Zealand Governments today reiterate their grave concerns about the growing number of credible reports of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” the statement read.

“In particular, there is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extrajudicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.”

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Minister Payne and Minister Mahuta said in the statement that they “share” Canada, the EU, the US and the UK’s “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.

“Today, we underscore the importance of transparency and accountability, and reiterate our call on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts, and other independent observers.”

While China initially denied the existence of the camps, more recently it has defended them as a “necessary measure against terrorism” following separatist violence in the Xinjiang region.

In a statement, a Chinese Embassy spokesperson said they “strongly oppose” Minister Payne’s “so-called statement on Xinjiang”.

“The allegations, in disregard of facts and based on disinformation and lies, are unwarranted attacks against China and out of pure political manipulation,” they said.

“They once again fully expose the deep-seated ideological prejudices and the despicable tactic of smearing China on the Australian side. Such attempt is entirely futile. Our commitment to sovereignty, security and development interests remains firm and strong.

“We urge the Australian government to stop vilifying China, refrain from meddling in China’s internal affairs and cease to apply double standards on human rights. We call on Australia to 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 longstanding insufficiency in the protection of the rights of Aboriginal peoples as well as the inhumane treatment of detainees in the offshore detention centers (sic).”

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In a series of statements last night, the US and allies in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific announced sanctions – including travel bans and asset freezes – targeting senior officials in Xinjiang.

Those targeted have been named as director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (the local police force), Chen Mingguo; Xinjiang Communist Party member Wang Mingshan; party secretary of state-owned and economic paramilitary organisation, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), Wang Junzheng; former deputy Xinjiang Communist Party head, Zhu Hailun and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the abuse of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region “one of the worst human rights crises of our time”.

“I think it’s clear that by acting with our partners – 30 of us in total – we are sending the clearest message to the Chinese government, that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of basic human rights and that we will act in concert to hold those responsible to account,” he told fellow parliamentarians.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that China was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity”.

America sanctioned Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo for their connection to “arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious human rights abuses”, it said.

“Mounting evidence points to systemic, state-led human rights violations by Chinese authorities,” Canada’s foreign ministry added in a statement.

China responded almost immediately to the sanctions, announcing measures against 10 EU politicians and four entities for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation”.

The nation accused the EU, in a statement posted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of “disregarding and distorting the facts” and “grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs” by imposing sanctions against its officials.


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