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Australia expresses “deep concern” over Chinese treatment of Uighur people

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, expressed “deep concern” over China’s treatment of the Uighur minority and the use of forced labour, detention centres and the blocks on consular assistance to dual citizens.

On Monday, Payne responded to questions concerning the cases of 10 Australian permanent residents who have been allegedly detained, including a two-year-old Australian citizen. The Minister maintained that Australia has sought information and offered consular assistance but was denied access.

China has denied these allegations and stated that they had extended an invitation to nations concerned over the state of the Uighur population to visit Xinjiang province. This statement was denied by the Australian Foreign Minister. 

Human rights organisations estimate that over a million Uighurs are reported to be been placed in detention. 

In her statement Payne said:

“We do request consular access when we are notified of such a detention … it’s very important to note there are complex family arrangements around family members who are in Xinjiang [...]

“But if they’re not Australian citizens we don’t have an entitlement to consular access, [and] China doesn’t allow consular access to dual nationals unless they’ve actually entered China on their Australian passports, so that does add to the complexity.”

Payne further stated:

“A letter was signed to the president of the Human Rights Council and the UN high commissioner for human rights a week or so ago – we were one of 22 signatories to that letter – and I think what that reflects is an increasing international focus on the developments in Xinjiang.”

The letter calls for an end to mass arbitrary detention. 

In response to the letter China had accused the signatories of having “wantonly criticised and smeared China in total disregard for the truth” and further stated that by “blatantly politicising the issue of human rights, they have grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs”.

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