Tensions between Australia and China are high following the arrest of Australian citizen Stern Hu and a visit to Australia by exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer. After pressuring Melboure Film Festival organizers to cancel a showing of a documentary about Kadeer, Chinese embassy officials have now asked the National Press Club in Canberra to call off a planned nationally-televised talk by Kadeer. From the Australian:
Political counsellor at the embassy Liu Jing met press club officials last week and requested the club withdraw the invitation to Ms Kadeer.
“Mr Liu said to us, ‘You must withdraw the invitation to Ms Kadeer’. He was insistent but polite,” a director of the club, who was present at the meeting, told The Australian.
He said Mr Liu had pointed out that the Chinese government believed it would be “regrettable” if bilateral relations were harmed by Ms Kadeer speaking at the club.
“We hope you will be able to give us some good news next week,” Mr Liu told NPC directors. “We hope that if this speech were to go ahead, it would not be televised,” he added.
The Australian wrote an editorial in response to this news:
The Australian ambassador to Beijing was ticked off when she was granted a visa. And now the Chinese embassy is demanding the National Press Club cancel Ms Kadeer’s scheduled address today. China has made its point, and it is time for the Australian government to respond. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith should call in Chinese ambassador Zhang Junsai and ask him to convey an equally plain reply to Beijing: butt out. Mr Zhang must be told heavy-handed attempts to stop a woman who has broken no laws in Australia and who Canberra considers constitutes no threat to either this country or the peace of the world are unacceptable. And when he conveys that message, the ambassador could explain to his superiors that even if the Australian government wanted to stop Ms Kadeer from addressing the Press Club, it is not its decision to make, that in Australia freedom of speech is a fundamental right, not a privilege conferred and withdrawn by the state. Mr Zhang could also add that the Australian people will never accept a foreign power seeking to censor information and suppress criticism here.