The Australian government should roll out targeted sanctions against China, the opposition says, despite the most positive interaction between the two countries in years occurring this week.
Days after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping – the first leader to do so in six years – the opposition says Magnitsky sanctions should be rolled out in response to the human rights abuses occurring in China.
Australia’s Magnitsky law allows governments to target individuals and businesses through sanctions, rather than a whole country.
The opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, said he had written to Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong to offer support in implementing such specific sanctions in relation to China.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week – the first leaders meeting in six years. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
He said while he “welcomed” the meeting between Mr Albanese and Mr Xi, the human rights abuses, particularly against Uyghurs, could not go ignored.
“(We must be) firm in terms of … calling out egregious breaches by others … (including) on human rights matters,” he told Insiders.
“(Penny Wong) had previously criticised the previous government for not acting in concert with other nations so I wanted to make sure that given the new sanctions laws were passed late in the term of the previous government, that we would give that bipartisan support if the new government chose to use those.”
Senator Birmingham went on to say Australia should consider implementing Magnitsky sanctions against Myanmar and Iran as well.
Simon Birmingham says Australia should impose Magnitsky sanctions on Myanmar and Iran as well. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Discussions of implementing sanctions against Myanmar have re-emerged this week, after Australian economist Sean Turnell was released from prison after 21 months.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the thousands of other individuals who are detained in Myanmar, to the abuses occurring across the country, to the oppression of minorities that are happening, to the suppression of government, and to the fact that it would appear they are preparing to undertake a sham election next year as an entree to try to get themselves back into international acceptance,” Senator Birmingham said.
“International acceptance should not occur off the back of a sham election, and should not occur when extensive human rights abuses are occurring.”
Professor Sean Turnell was detained in Myanmar for 21 months, and was freed this week and returned home.
On Iran, Senator Birmingham said other nations had imposed targeted sanctions, and Australia should look to do the same.
“Australia is a long way behind like-minded countries and comparable nations when it comes to actions in relation to Iran,” he said.
“Many have expressly said they don’t want sanctions that could hurt the Iranian people in terms of economic sanctions, but they do believe that there are many cases for targeted individual sanctions to be applied, as we’ve done in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
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