Page 2779 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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International affairs—China and Tibet

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (7.11): This matter was drawn to my attention and is something that I will circulate to members because, with our limited time for private members business, it would be difficult to do it as a motion. The Senate recently agreed to a motion which I will read out and which it would be appropriate for us to adopt and pass on, I would imagine, either to the Prime Minister or the foreign minister. It was moved by Senator Nettle and she added Senator Bartlett’s name to the motion, which stated:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applies to the treatment of Falun Gong Practitioners worldwide,

(ii) the practise of religion should not form the basis of the incarceration of any individual;

(b) appreciates the commitment by the Prime Minister (Mr Rudd) to being a zhengyou, or a ‘true friend’, to the Chinese leadership and his willingness to raise challenging human rights issues; and

(c) expresses its support for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

The question was agreed to. I could not see whether there was debate on that or not. I will follow that up to see whether that has been finalised. In this Olympic year, given some of the controversy over the torch relay and the quite proper statements made by the Chief Minister in relation to respecting people’s human rights to protest, the fact is that there are civil rights abuses in China and, if we are to be a true friend, we should not try to hide things from our friend; you tell your friend when your friend, you feel, is doing the wrong thing. The Chinese are big boys and girls and they can certainly take that. I think it shows a certain amount of maturity by Australia in so doing.

It might be sensible for us to add something in relation to the persecution of pro-democracy people in Tibet as well. In 1951, the Chinese government signed with the Dalai Lama a 19-point treaty which guaranteed, effectively, autonomy for Tibet. It effectively made Tibet something a bit like the old British protectorate system whereby the national government looks after defence and foreign affairs and all the internal affairs are run by the autonomous region or, indeed, state. I do not think even the Dalai Lama these days wants to go quite that far. Clearly, any sort of accommodation there would be in the interests of everyone.

I probably intend adding something there which we could then pass on to the Prime Minister, because I think it is important that we help our friends by making suggestions on how we feel they should do things better. There are certainly a number

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