Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has refused to apologise for criticising China after being told he would need to “repent” to visit the country.
Hastie and Liberal senator James Paterson were due to travel to Beijing in December with Labor MP Matt Keogh as part of a study tour.
The pair were denied visas after being critical of Beijing, with the Chinese embassy in Canberra calling on the two Liberal MPs to “repent and redress their mistakes”.
But Hastie said he has no intention of scaling back his criticism of Chinese attempts to exert influence in Australia and human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang province.
“Senator James Paterson and I will not repent,” he said.
“Let me be very clear, we will not repent for standing up for Australian sovereignty, our values, our interests, and for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
The West Australian MP admits his chances of visiting China are slim.
“I am very much open to a trip in the new year, but I suspect unless I repent I won’t be welcome. There will be no repentance,” he said.
A statement from the embassy had said that China was open to “constructive dialogue and exchanges” with people from all over the world based on “mutual respect, equality and seeking common ground while reserving differences”.
“The Chinese people do not welcome those who make unwarranted attacks, wantonly exert pressure on China, challenge China’s sovereignty, disrespect China’s dignity and undermine mutual trust between China and Australia,” the embassy said.
“The colonial days of Western powers are long gone. China will never yield to colonisation of ideas and values.
“As long as the people concerned genuinely repent and redress their mistakes, view China with objectivity and reason, respect China’s system and mode of development chosen by the Chinese people, the door of dialogue and exchanges will always remain open.”
The China Matters thinktank, which organised the study tour, said the embassy had objected to publicity surrounding the tour after it was revealed Paterson and Hastie had been invited on the trip.
“It is most unfortunate that the names of the politicians who had accepted our invitation to join the study tour in December became public in advance,” China Matters said on Friday.
“The media attention that ensued created an environment which was no longer conducive to our goal of facilitating low-key discussions and exchanging differing points of view behind closed doors.”
Hastie drew the ire of colleagues when an opinion piece he wrote in August criticised China’s authoritarian rise and likened the complacency about Xi Jinping’s philosophy and intentions to Europe’s response to Nazi Germany before World War II.
He has also spoken out about Chinese influence in Australia and human rights abuses against the Uighur population in Xinjiang province.
Paterson has also been a fierce critic of the Chinese, raising concerns about the risk of Chinese influence at Australian universities and the escalating violence in Hong Kong.
Paterson told ABC news on Friday, that he would continue to exercise his freedom of speech.
“Hong Kong is one of the most amazing places in the world and what is happening there is an absolute tragedy and I believe the Communist Party bears some responsibility for that.”
Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones called the decision to block the MPs unfortunate, saying more would be gained by allowing them to get a better understanding of China.
“If the purpose behind this is to try and change their minds or change the things they’re going to say, I rather suspect it’s going to have the opposite impact knowing these two people,” he told Sky News.
“[It’s] probably playing into their hands rather than the other way.”
Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.
By Sarah Martin