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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4345

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (3:36 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister of Defence (Senator Faulkner) to a question without notice asked by Senator Bob Brown relating to human rights in China and Chinese democrat, Liu Xiaobo.

This man has been held in detention for six months and in the last few days has been now formally arrested and charged by the Beijing autocrats. I quote a report from Shinhua news agency:

Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumours and defaming of the Government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialist system in recent years.

Minister Faulkner told the Senate that the government had made some contact with the Chinese authorities about the plight of Mr Liu, but when we analyse it we find there has been no contact with or calling of the Chinese ambassador in Australia. There has been no minister-to-minister reference in these circumstances to Mr Liu’s now formal charging by the Australian government and what contact there has been with Beijing has been at the level of councillor or first secretary. The ambassador in China is apparently far too important to be involved in the matter of this great democrat’s quite wrongful imprisonment and tragic subjection to further harassment, cruelty and dispossession of his rights by the Chinese authorities.

I would remind the Senate that Mr Liu was one of the protestors for democracy in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago and he served two years in jail after that, having seen thousands of his fellow peaceful democratic protestors butchered by the very same people who are now in power in Beijing. During the 1990s he spent five further years in detention because he dared to speak up for democracy and freedom. Now we have him again being arraigned and persecuted simply because he was the co-author of Charter 08, which I have circulated to every member of this parliament and which I recommend everybody have a look at it. It is the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence in the United States and it was issued on the day celebrating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Mr Liu was arrested on the eve of that announcement and, since then, many more of the 3,000 Chinese democracy advocates who had the courage to sign this document have been arrested.

The Australian government’s subservience to the dictators in Beijing on this matter is totally unacceptable. Where is the gumption to stand up for the rights which are enshrined in Charter 08 to which we all subscribe? Repeatedly we hear that Australia is a great country for democracy, that we believe in the freedom and the rights—political, civil and religious—of every human being but in particular of every citizen in this country. How can the rights of this great advocate, in a repressive police state—of the things that we believe in—be left by our country to be handled by a councillor or a first secretary at an embassy. Why is the Prime Minister not involved here? Why has the Minister for Foreign Affairs not been involved? Why indeed is the ambassador in Beijing silent while the ambassador for China here in Canberra has not been contacted about this criminal behaviour on the part of the powers that be in China? It is in breach of their own constitution that this man is being pursued, vilified, arrested, detained, harassed and treated so cruelly by the Chinese authorities. It reminds me of what happened to Solzhenitsyn and so many others during the very dark years of the Soviet Union. We should and must do better. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.