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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1558 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Tibet and about students and about freedoms that we perceive not to exist in China that we wished did. I acknowledge that.

We do think about how to best respond to those concerns. I am one who believes that it is best to engage and seek to deal with human rights abuses, as we see them, through a process of engagement. My attitude is that to cut off contact and seek not to engage in any way as a way of expressing objection to human rights abuses is not the best way to go.

I do not ever resile from my commitment to the human rights of everyone in relation to the action which the federal government took towards the Falun Gong in the ACT. I was immediate and strong in my response to and condemnation of the federal government's determination to interfere with what I and most people in Canberra regard as perfectly legitimate and peaceful political activism and demonstrations by the Falun Gong here in the ACT.

The federal government do not agree with that. The federal government have a position that the action they took was legitimate and consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and they believe that the action that they took was appropriate under the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1967. They have their position; we have ours.

I have not resiled from my position of objection. As you mentioned, Ms Tucker, it is a position that I do not think pleased the Chinese officials here or the Chinese government. I have had a number of discussions since, as Leader of the Opposition and as Chief Minister, with the Chinese ambassador to Australia about the Falun Gong and about human rights. We had to agree to differ, but we each put our positions strongly and straight. I had an opportunity as a leader to discuss this issue with the Chinese ambassador, and I did not step back from my position on the Falun Gong demonstration in the ACT or from the reasons that I took that position.

I had a discussion, as recently as the trip to China, with the Chinese deputy foreign minister about Falun Gong and my position on human rights and the right of the Falun Gong to peacefully demonstrate in the ACT. I would not mind betting that I am the only leader from anywhere around the world that has had such a discussion with the deputy foreign minister of the Chinese government, in that I expressed my concerns about the attitude that was taken here about the rights of the Falun Gong.

On that occasion I did not take up with the Chinese their so-called human rights record, but we discussed human rights and the fact that there are issues that do concern people in Canberra and in Australia. It is a valuable capacity that we have as a result of our sister city relationship with China to say that we have a view on these issues-they, of course, have a different view-and we express it in those ways. It is a particularly valuable aspect of the relationship that we have that there is that degree of access and the opportunity to say, "We have a different attitude to these things. This is how we do it, this is what we think and this is why we think it." I have had those discussions, but I am not going to take on the Chinese government, as the leader of the ACT, on their human rights record. I will leave that to Alexander Downer.

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