China’s state-run Global Times newspaper has accused Australia of politicising China’s court ruling on the death sentence of former Australian actor Karm Gilespie.
In an opinion piece for the publication, columnist Yu Ning says Australia’s mentality towards China is “increasingly irrational”, again accusing the country of “being a pawn for the US” amid growing tensions between Australia and China.
Mr Gilespie, 56, was arrested with more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage in 2013 while attempting to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
While the sentencing decision on Saturday came amid rising tensions between the two countries, the Global Times article claims Australian and other western media outlets were quick to connect the political spat between China and Australia and the death sentence.
Yu Ning says Australia, along with other western countries “always touts itself as a country under the rule of law”, but accuses Australia of “politicising” China’s decision in light of the country upholding the law.
Australia accused of defending a drug trafficker
The article points to comments from Australian Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in an interview he did over the weekend on Sky News.
The piece says the minister’s condemnation of the death penalty and consular assistance could lead to relations between the two countries further deteriorating.
"This is very distressing for Mr Gilespie and his loved ones, and our government will continue to provide consular assistance," Senator Birmingham told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program over the weekend.
Asked whether he thought the sentence was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia he said: "We shouldn't necessarily view it as such”.
The article points out Australia has abolished capital punishment, and Mr Birmingham says both sides of politics in Australia condemn the death penalty, in all countries.
“Australia has abolished capital punishment, but it makes no sense if Australia keeps using its own legal standards to criticise China's ruling,” the Global Times wrote.
“Chinese society as a whole has zero tolerance for drug trafficking.”
The article says Australian media are “defending is a drug trafficker”. It argues the sentencing serves as a deterrent and the courts decision should be respected.
Australia strongly opposed to death penalty
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has since reiterated Australia's strong opposition to the death penalty.
"We regard it as undermining shared human dignity and inconsistent with principles of criminal justice that allow for rehabilitation," Senator Payne said.
"The irrevocability of it allows for no errors of fact or law to be corrected. It is no more effective as a deterrent against serious crime than lengthy imprisonment.
"We advocate consistently for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, via every diplomatic avenue available to us."
The Global Times columnist writer says Canberra has repeatedly harmed China's interests unilaterally, but continues to play the victim.
“China took action to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests, Australia has played the victim, calling China's counteractions ‘bullying’ or ‘coercion’,” Yu Ning wrote.
Beijing has also targeted Australian barley farmers and beef producers after Prime Minister Scott Morrison led international calls for an independent coronavirus inquiry.
Australia accused of ignoring racial abuse of Chinese
When Chinese authorities told students to reconsider travelling to Australia, warning of a rise in racist attacks, Mr Morrison responded that Australia has a “record of multiculturalism, of freedom of religion, of liberty, treating everybody equally”.
The Global Times article accused Mr Morrison of disregarding the rise in racial abuse Chinese people have experienced in Australia during the global coronavirus pandemic.
“If Australia refuses to face up to the issue and correct its policy, it will completely lose its appeal to Chinese students,” the article concludes, stating it was time Australia “face up to reality” and “tell right from wrong”.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, since April there have been almost 400 reports of racist incidents amid the pandemic towards Asian-Australians.
The survey also revealed about 90 per cent of racist incidents were not being reported to police.
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