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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1203


Senator BOURNE (4.02 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

I will make only a very short statement on this report at this stage because I look forward to making a longer statement when the time becomes available to me. This delegation, the second Australian human rights delegation to China, had substantially the same membership as the first delegation; there were only a couple of changes.

  I believe that a very good way to run a delegation, particularly to somewhere such as China, is to have a comprehensive mix of parliamentarians with an interest in human rights and foreign affairs and experts in different aspects of the country visited. Professor Tay is a particular expert in the field of Chinese law and knows a lot more about Chinese law than many of the officials that we met. Mr Chris Sidoti is an expert in human rights and human rights documents, such as the UN human rights document. He is currently with the Australian Law Reform Commission but he was previously secretary of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

  Many good people from the Department of Foreign Affairs were involved in the delegation. The calibre of the people who went on this visit says volumes about how good our Department of Foreign Affairs is. We were told frequently that Dr Richard Rigby's Mandarin is better than that of most Chinese. We had Mr Ian Russell from the human rights section; Mr Kevin Garratt, who was seconded to Foreign Affairs, speaks Tibetan and is an expert in Tibetan culture; Ms Dilber Thwaites, who speaks Uigur—she is Uigurian—and is an expert in Uigur culture; and Mr Stephen Huang, our first secretary, political, from the Australian Embassy in Beijing.

  We were not in China for a very long time; we were there for 12 days this time. But we did get out to Xinjiang in the far west of the country. It was very different from anything we had seen before. We have frequently been asked about whether Xinjiang is similar to Tibet in that it is full of minority populations and there are more and more Han going in there every day. That is true, but I found the atmosphere in Xinjiang very different to that of Tibet.

  In Tibet I found the atmosphere very difficult, very repressed. There were many members of the Chinese military holding guns and prepared to use them whereas Xinjiang, although there is some institutionalised repression which is detailed in the report, is a much more open place and is well and truly the centre of central Asia. The Kashgar market is very large. It is not just people from China who go there but people from all over central Asia.

  It was a very interesting trip. We met some fascinating people. I would like to thank all of the Chinese officials, who were very helpful to us. I would like to thank the people from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in particular our embassy staff in Beijing and Hong Kong, who were excellent. I will make a much fuller statement on this when it is debated under ministerial statements in August.