Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Former Australian leader speaks on Chinese diplomacy

AFP , SYDNEY

Former Australian prime minister John Howard has criticized “clumsy” Chinese diplomatic efforts to gag exiled dissidents and linked recent strains between Canberra and Beijing to a failed mining deal.

Howard said China’s attempts to prevent exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer visiting Australia last month were “ridiculous” and left Canberra with no choice but to grant her a visa.

Conservative leader of Australia for 11 years, Howard said Beijing had adopted similar tactics when Tibet’s spiritual leader visited the country, failing to appreciate that efforts to dictate diplomatic policy were destined to backfire.

“They can be very clumsy diplomatically,” Howard told a business function in Sydney on Wednesday. “They’ve got this silly habit, if they don’t want you to see someone, they say so — which means that you must see them.

‘RIDICULOUS’

“It’s just ridiculous, they’ve done that with the Dalai Lama [and] the way they carried on about that lady with the visa [Kadeer].

“Of course we had to give that lady a visa. Heavens above, you don’t allow the Chinese, or any government — whether it’s China or Britain or America — to tell us who we should give visas to,” he said.

Australia revealed last month that China had canceled a senior minister’s visit over Canberra’s decision to grant a visa to Kadeer, whom Beijing accuses of being a separatist and inciting deadly unrest in northwest China’s Xinjiang region in July.

MINING AT ROOT

Howard said recent tensions between China and Australia could be traced back to mining giant Rio Tinto’s rejection of a US$19.5 billion cash injection from China’s state-owned aluminum giant Chinalco.

“I think they got their noses out of joint over the Chinalco thing and some of the things they have done in response have been conditioned by that reaction,” he said.

China arrested an Australian Rio Tinto executive in the weeks after the Chinalco deal collapsed, but says his detention is linked to allegations of industrial espionage and bribery during fraught iron ore negotiations.

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