AUSSIE TRADE MINISTER TELLS CHINA: SOVEREIGNTY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the government will protect the country’s sovereignty and national interest, in response to a warning from China’s ambassador that it will “respond in kind” if Canberra joins sanctions on officials accused of human rights abuses, Michael Heath and Haidi Lun reported for Bloomberg News.
“That’s something we’ve made very clear is non-negotiable,” Tehan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Thursday. “But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have productive relationships. Good friends always are able to have very difficult conversations.”
International tensions have flared over reports of forced labor being used to harvest cotton in China’s western province of Xinjiang, prompting several countries to sanction Communist Party officials.
Beijing has dismissed the accusations about its behavior against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs as politically motivated lies. Late last month it announced retaliatory sanctions on individuals in the US and Canada, adding to those imposed earlier on the U.K. and European Union.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in a March 23 joint statement with her New Zealand counterpart, said that the government had “grave concerns” over reports of human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and welcomed the measures taken by the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU.
Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said Wednesday that people should not be under the illusion “that China would swallow the bitter pill” of meddling in its internal affairs, nor attempts to mount a “pressure” campaign.