Australian politicians banned from China 'will not repent' for criticism

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James Paterson, left, and Andrew Hastie, rightImage source, Getty Images/Liberal Party
Image caption,
James Paterson, left, and Andrew Hastie, right, have both been outspoken in their criticism of the Chinese state.

Two Australian politicians refused entry to China have said they will not retract their criticisms of the country.

Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, both members of the government, were due to go on a study tour in China next month.

But their visa applications were rejected, and the Chinese embassy said they could only visit if they were to "genuinely repent" for their comments.

Both Mr Hastie and Mr Paterson dismissed the demand.

The conservative politicians have been outspoken critics of China - singling out its human rights record, and its alleged interference in Australian politics.

A third politician due to go on the tour, Labor MP Matt Keogh, had not been denied a visa, according to think-tank China Matters.

There is an ongoing debate about Chinese influence in Australia, with some politicians accusing Beijing of trying to infiltrate Australian politics through donations. Others, however, believe the allegations are fuelling xenophobia and harming relations between the two countries.

In a statement after Mr Hastie's and Mr Paterson's visas were refused, a Chinese embassy spokesperson said that they "do not welcome those who make unwarranted attacks" on the country.

"As long as the people concerned genuinely repent and redress their mistakes, view China with objectivity and reason, respect China's system and mode of development chosen by the Chinese people, the door of dialogue and exchanges will always remain open," they added.

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In 2017 we asked, does Chinese influence exist in Australia?

In response, Mr Hastie told local media that he was "disappointed but not surprised" that he had been refused entry to China.

"Senator James Paterson and I will not repent, let me be very clear," he said. "We will not repent for standing up for Australian sovereignty, our values, our interests, and standing up for people who can't stand up for themselves."

Mr Paterson added: "There won't be any repenting. I'm elected to represent the Australian people — their values, their concerns, their interests. I won't be repenting on the instruction of any foreign power."

What did they say about China?

Mr Hastie, MP for Canning in West Australia and head of a parliamentary security committee, wrote an opinion piece in August that was published in Sydney Morning Herald.

In that, he compared the West's approach to China to what he called the "catastrophic" failure to hold back Nazi Germany.

"Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become," he wrote.

"Our next step in safeguarding Australia's future is accepting and adapting to the reality of the geopolitical struggle before us - its origins, its ideas and its implications for the Indo-Pacific region."

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In August, Australia's prime minister said Andrew Hastie was "entirely entitled" to voice his opinions

Shortly after the article was published, the Chinese embassy in Australia said the piece betrayed his "Cold War mentality and ideological bias".

Mr Paterson has also criticised the Chinese state, and has raised concerns about violence in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is one of the most amazing places in the world and what is happening there is an absolute tragedy and I believe the Communist Party bears some responsibility for that," he told Australian broadcaster ABC on Friday.

What is Australia saying officially?

The government has criticised China for its human rights record on several occasions this year. In particular, lawmakers have raised the alleged mass detentions of the Uighur community in Xinjiang.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne raised "strong concerns" about a New York Times report which said it had obtained leaked Chinese documents detailing a crackdown on Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

"We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other groups," Ms Payne said in a statement.

Diplomatic ties between the two nations have come under strain in recent years. On Monday, The Australian newspaper reported that a human rights co-operation programme had been suspended in August.