The prime ministers of Australia and the UK on Thursday reiterated grave concerns over alleged human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang, and called on Beijing to respect the rights of the Muslim minority in the region.
According to a joint statement, Scott Morrison met virtually his British counterpart Boris Johnson and discussed bilateral relations and the situation in China and the Indo-Pacific region.
The two leaders expressed grave concerns over “credible reports” of human rights violations in Xinjiang, and also called on China to protect the rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
Several countries have accused China of ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing, however, denies any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as “lies and (a) political virus.”
In Hong Kong, Beijing introduced the National Security Law in 2020 in response to massive pro-democracy protests. Critics say the law reduces the special administrative region’s autonomy, and violates “one country, two systems” principle under which the former British colony was handed back to China.
The UK and Australian leaders also reiterated their support to Taiwan to participate in international organizations as a member, which China opposes.
China claims Taiwan as its breakaway province, but the former has been insisting on its independence since 1949 and has established full diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.
Morrison and Johnson opposed any unilateral actions that could escalate tension in the region, reaffirming their stance against Beijing’s “attempt to dominate” the disputed South China Sea.
“The leaders recognized the importance of countries being able to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the readout said.
Last year, Australia, the US, and the UK signed the AUKUS security pact, which is seen as another attempt to counter China’s expanding economic and military influence in the region. It will allow Australia build nuclear-powered submarines using technology provided by the US.
China says the deal will undermine regional peace and stability, and intensify arms race.
The leaders welcomed the entry into force of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement, making it possible for the UK and the US to share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia.
Australia is also part of the Quad, a strategic grouping with the US, Japan and India said to be aimed at reducing Chinese domination in Asia-Pacific.
The two leaders also expressed grave concerns over the current situation in Myanmar, where the military took power last year, and called for the immediate cessation of violence against civilian populations and release of all the detainees.
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