Marise Payne to address Uighur detention camps in China visit


Foreign Minister Marise Payne has indicated she will raise Australia's concerns about internment camps in China's Xinjiang province, where rights groups say up to one million people are being held without charge.

Marise Payne said she will register "serious concerns" over internment camps in China's far-west during her visit to Beijing this week. 

Activists say hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other mainly-Muslim minorities are detained in political re-education camps in Xinjiang province. 

It comes amid mounting pressure from Australia's Uighur community, who are urging the government to confront China about the camps.

Australian citizen Almas Nizamidin, says his mother and wife are among those detained.
Australian citizen Almas Nizamidin, says his mother and wife are among those detained.

Australian citizen Almas Nizamidin, who left China nine years ago, says his mother and wife are among those detained. 

"I want to ask the government again to protect my family, bring them to me," he told SBS News. 

"I want the Australian government to stand up for human rights, stand up for justice, to pressure the Chinese government to close the Nazi camp. "

Many Uighurs living abroad have been fearful about speaking out, over concerns about what might happen to their families back home.

But Mr Nizamidin said he has nothing to lose.

"I already lost everything. I have no choice, I have to stand up for justice, human rights, I have to ask the world to help me. 

"I want to ask the whole world to wake up. They took everything, they will take everything if you don’t open your eyes," he said. 

Warming relations

Ms Payne is the first Australian foreign minister to visit China in nearly three years, as Canberra and Beijing seek to move past a period of awkward diplomatic relations.

"Obviously we have a very substantial relationship, and it works in the interests of both sides and we're committed to building on our comprehensive strategic partnership," Ms Payne said. 

While China is Australia's largest trading partner, ties between the two governments have been strained in recent years over allegations Beijing was interfering in domestic politics and using donations to gain access.

But amid a growing trade spat between the US and China, Payne's visit is seen as an opportunity for Canberra to leverage its economic relationship.

In a statement late Monday, Payne said strategic cooperation with China "is a priority of the highest order for Australia".

However, she said, her government did "have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang" and would raise the issue with her opposite number Wang Yi while she is in Beijing on Thursday and Friday.

"There'll be statements made in the (United Nations) Human Rights Council this week, and I will pursue matters in the course of my discussions in an appropriate way," she said. 

China is expected to be grilled about the camps as it undergoes its periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Beijing has defended the facilities, saying they are "vocational education and training centres" and are part of its efforts to combat terrorism in the region.

The Department of Foreign Affairs have said that three Australians were detained in camps in Xinjiang last year before being released.

Canberra has also been critical about growing Chinese influence in the Pacific islands, which it views as its backyard, via aid programmes as part of a "soft diplomacy" push.

Some Chinese investments and land purchases in Australia have meanwhile been knocked back over "national interest" reasons, prompting Beijing to accuse Canberra of being biased.

Source AFP - SBS

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch