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‘Speak out’: Protests greet China minister

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for talks at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Pro-Tibet protesters have rallied outside Parliament House, calling on Foreign Minister Penny Wong to put human rights issues at the top of her meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

Senator Wong and Mr Wang met for the seventh time in Parliament House on Wednesday, marking the first time a Chinese foreign minister has visited Australia since 2017.

Outside, protesters gathered on the lawn.

Greens senator Janet Rice addressed the crowd, calling for both Senator Wong and the opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham to urgently raise human rights concerns with Mr Wang in their respective meetings.

FREE TIBET PROTESTERS
Human rights protesters gathered on the Parliament House lawn on Wednesday, as Penny Wong met Wang Yi. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
FREE TIBET PROTESTERS
Falun Dafa practitioners travelled to Canberra to join the protests. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“My message to both Penny Wong and Simon Birmingham is to put the issue of human rights in China and in Tibet absolutely top of the agenda,” Senator Rice said.

“We cannot have normal relationships with China while the people of Tibet are being oppressed, persecuted, do not have religious freedom, are being taken off their lands, while kids are being sent off to Chinese-run boarding schools.

“Australia has to speak out and say this is not good enough.”

FREE TIBET PROTESTERS
They called for human rights issues to be a priority of the meeting. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Senator Wong said she had raised the issues with Mr Wang, during the first trip by a Chinese foreign minister since 2017.

“I raised Australia’s concerns about human rights, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,” she said.

Senator Wong said the pair had exchanged “frank views”, including on the sentencing of Dr Yang Hengjun.

“I told the foreign minister Australians were shocked at the sentence imposed, and I made clear to him the Australian government will continue to advocate on Dr Yang’s behalf,” she said.

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER - TIME TBA
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong held a solo press conference after the meeting with Mr Wang. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER - TIME TBA
Senator Wong said she had raised Australia’s concerns over human rights with Mr Wang. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I also raised our concerns about other Australians death penalty cases, as you know Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all peoples.”

Senator Wong said she “welcomed the progress” towards removing the trade impediments.

“I reiterated our desire for the removal of remaining impediments on beef and lobster,” she said.

Later joining the group of protesters, independent senator Lidia Thorpe accused the Foreign Minister of “holding back” in her meeting with Mr Wang and said her careful use of language made her “complicit” in genocide.

“You can just hide the fact that people are being killed in their own country en masse. When you’re meeting with a foreign leader, you have the opportunity to raise these crimes against humanity,” Senator Thorpe told NCA NewsWire.

“You can’t just tip-toe around and try to please everybody. Tell the truth and ask for the genocide and killings to stop, but don’t hold back because it suits your government’s agenda.”