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China accuses Australia of ‘grave human rights problems’ in press conference

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A press conference in China turned ugly when one of Australia’s greatest critics turned the blowtorch on what he called “grave human rights problems”.

A press conference in China turned into an opportunity to attack Australia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was holding one of his regular meetings with the media on Wednesday local time when he was gifted a free hit at one of his favourite targets.

Zhao was asked a question by the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine, the Global Times, about two reports by the Federal Government’s Productivity Commission.

He cited both the Prison Dilemma report, published in October last year, and the Report on Government Services 2022, published last month.

“The reports pointed out the incarceration rate of indigenous Australians is extremely high, which is grounded on a series of institutional problems like racial discrimination and selective law enforcement of the police. What is your comment?” asked the Global Times reporter.

Zhao took the opportunity to turn the tables on Australia — one of a number of western nations which has been vocal in its criticism of China’s human rights abuses against Uighurs.

“I have noted the reports,” Zhao began.

“The comparison speaks volumes. According to the reports released by the research body of the Australian government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise 3.3 per cent of the Australian population but 29 per cent of prisoners in 2020.

“In the Northern Territory, they make up 84 per cent of the prison population. And their rate of imprisonment is 13 times that of the non-Indigenous group.

“At least 474 indigenous people died during incarceration over the past 30 years. These figures fully expose the grave human rights problems in Australia.”

Zhao continued.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg on human rights issues in Australia. In the past, Australia adopted genocide and assimilation policies against the Indigenous people. Up to 100,000 Indigenous children were taken by force from their families, and a large number of indigenous people were slaughtered and enslaved.

“Even to this day, the Indigenous people are still subject to grave unfair treatment when it comes to living conditions and law enforcement.

“Systemic discrimination against ethnic minorities in Australia is severe and hate crimes are proliferating. Besides, Australia has set up offshore detention centres in third countries, where a large number of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are held in long-term and even indefinite forced detention with their basic human rights seriously violated.”

Zhao turned to the subject of alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan — a subject he brought up in 2020 when he posted a falsified image of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of a child.

“I have also given you many examples on how Australian soldiers illegally executed captives, tortured and killed civilians and committed serious war crimes in overseas military operations in countries like Afghanistan, but can still get away from punishment,” Zhao said.

“For a long time, Australia, a self-claimed ‘vanguard of human rights’, has turned a blind eye to its own problems while pointing fingers at other countries’ human rights conditions based on rumours and lies, which is out-and-out double-standard.

“Some in Australia should carefully read the reports, earnestly do some soul-searching, and seriously address the rampant human rights problems at home.”

China is facing global condemnation for its treatment of ethnic minorities, specifically the imprisonment of at least one million mostly Muslim people in where authorities are accused of forcibly sterilising women.

Australia joined the US and a number of other nations in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, currently underway, which allowed athletes to attend but meant no Australian dignitaries would make the journey.

In announcing the boycott, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it clear that Australia had been trying to meet in the middle — to come to a truce of sorts.

“For some time (China) will have been very aware that we have been raising a number of issues that have not been received well in China,” he said.

“We have been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese Government about these issues and there has been no obstacle to that occurring on our side.

“But the Chinese Government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues,” Mr Morrison said.

The two countries are not in open dialogue and haven’t been since Australia twice sinned in the eyes of its former friend — once when it banned Huawei from its 5G broadband rollout and again when it called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

China responded with wide-ranging sanctions on barley, wine, timber, lobster and coal and a frankly bizarre letter to Australia listing 14 grievances.

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