Scott Morrison has once again condemned China’s mass detention and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, after copping backlash from Beijing.
When asked whether the detention camps were immoral, the prime minister said: “You’ve seen the pictures, I mean, it’s fairly straight forward.”
“We have raised these issues as great human rights abuses and concerns,” Mr Morrison told 3AW radio on Friday.
“We’ve done it directly – we haven’t just done it in public – we’ve always raised these issues consistently, and the foreign minister has done this on every occasion she’s had.”
Up to two million minority Muslims are detained in “re-education” camps in the remote Xinjiang region. Australia, along with 22 other countries, has condemned China at the United Nations for its treatment of the Uighurs.
In her speech to the US Studies Centre this week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne warned Australia would not hesitate to call out the human rights abuses.
She said the government would also continue to advocate for detained Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who is being held by Beijing for alleged but unexplained spying offences.
“We must respect each other’s sovereignty but we will consistently continue to raise issues such as human rights, including with China,” Senator Payne said.
“We will do so not just because we believe individual rights should apply to all people but because we believe nations that uphold such principles domestically are more likely to co-operate in ways that promote the common good globally.”
Beijing lashed back on Thursday, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying Senator Payne’s comments showed “total disregard of facts to serve political purposes”.
“Such ill-advised remarks will not help to improve or grow relations with China. We have lodged stern representations to the Australian side and pointed out the inappropriate nature of her conduct,” Mr Geng said.
“We have repeatedly stated that a sound and stable China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of both peoples. We hope the Australian side will learn from recent setbacks in our relations and meet China halfway rather than take one step forward and two steps backward.”
Mr Morrison said Australia’s relationship with China had to be honest and transparent.
“We just have to act consistent with our values, which is what we are doing,” he said.
“The Chinese government will make their comments about what they believe is occurring there, and we’ll continue with other countries around the world to raise the concerns that we have. They have their view about what’s occurring there and they’re obviously, as part of that relationship, entitled to raise those matters directly with us. But it’s not something that I would seek to have define our relationship. I mean, the relationship is defined by the things you agree on, not the things that you disagree on. But it’s important that Australians understand that we’ll always act consistent with our values.”