Thursday, April 6, 2017
China 'abruptly cancels' Australian delegation's planned visit after human rights criticism
A delegation of federal politicians' planned visit to China has been abruptly cancelled after Beijing took offence at a human rights petition signed by Australia.
The letter from 11 nations — including Canada, Japan and Switzerland — reportedly urged China to investigate disturbing reports of torture against human rights lawyers.
It is believed the joint letter was sent last month from the diplomatic missions in China of the signatory countries, and reportedly expressed "growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders".
The letter was meant to remain private but was leaked to the media.
Some members of Federal Parliament's Law Enforcement Committee had been due to fly to China yesterday for a week-long visit to examine what the country is doing to stop the import and export of methamphetamines, known commonly as 'ice'.
Sources have told ABC News the parliamentary delegation's planned visit was "abruptly cancelled" about two weeks ago — shortly after the joint letter on human rights concerns was received by the Chinese Government.
Members of Parliament's Law Enforcement Committee had been scheduled to visit Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong.
All the committee members approached by ABC News have declined to comment on the cancellation of the delegation's planned trip.
Just yesterday, Australia praised China's cooperation on countering drugs after Federal Police seized a record 900 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine smuggled in from the country.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan praised China's National Narcotics Control Bureau, which he said had stopped 7.5 tonnes of drugs from reaching Australian streets.
Mr Keenan said Australia was the only Western country that had a joint taskforce with the Chinese bureau, based at the port city of Guangzhou.
Last week, Beijing was angered after the Federal Government suddenly pulled the contentious Australia-China extradition treaty in the face of backbench rebellion and likely defeat in the Senate.
The agreement has stoked widespread unease in Parliament, with MPs on both sides of politics arguing Australia should not send people to China, because the country's judicial system is plagued with human rights abuses.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said during the debate the treaty would deepen Australia's cooperation with China on transnational crime, citing recent joint drug busts as proof of the strong relationship between police in both countries.