Wed, Nov 07, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Australia to query Uighur internments with China

RARE VISIT:Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne is to voice serious concerns over the Xinjiang camps with her Chinese counterpart when she visits Beijing

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia’s concerns over internment camps in China’s far west, where up to 1 million people are being held without charge, are to be raised during a visit this week, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said yesterday.

Payne said she would register “serious concerns” over the huge facilities in Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other mainly Muslim minorities are detained in what activists describe as political re-education camps.

The visit is the first by an Australian foreign minister in almost three years, as Canberra and Beijing seek to move past a period of awkward diplomatic relations.

“Obviously, we have a very substantial relationship, and it works in the interests of both sides and we’re committed to building on our comprehensive strategic partnership,” Payne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC).

While China is Australia’s largest trading partner, ties between the two governments have been strained over allegations that Beijing was interfering in domestic politics and using donations to gain access.

However, amid a growing trade spat between the US and China, Payne’s visit is seen as an opportunity for Canberra to leverage its economic relationship.

Payne said her government did “have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang” and would raise the issue with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) while she is in Beijing tomorrow and Friday.

“There’ll be statements made in the [UN] Human Rights Council this week, and I will pursue matters in the course of my discussions in an appropriate way,” she told the ABC.

China yesterday was expected to be grilled about the camps as it underwent a periodic review by the council.

Australian foreign affairs officials have said that three Australians were detained last year in camps in Xinjiang before being released.

Canberra has also been critical about growing Chinese influence in the Pacific islands, which it views as its backyard, via aid programs as part of a “soft diplomacy” push.

Meanwhile, some Chinese investments and land purchases in Australia have been knocked back over “national interest” reasons, prompting Beijing to accuse Canberra of being biased.

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