Foreign Minister Marise Payne said there were “credible reports of systematic abuse and torture” of Uighur women in response to an extraordinary press conference by the Chinese embassy.
Australian journalists were invited to a press conference on Wednesday where they were shown a Chinese government propaganda video denying harassment of the Uyghur Muslim minority population in Xinjiang.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye denounced what he described as “distorted coverage” of Xinjiang, and slammed Canberra for its criticism of China’s human rights abuses.
But Ms Payne said Canberra would continue to be “very clear” about its “deep concern” for Xinjiang, where human rights groups estimate one million Uighurs have been detained in internment camps.
“This is an issue that we have raised at the highest level,” he told Sky News on Thursday.
“I made a statement with my New Zealand partner at the end of last month on this matter, and we are working closely with our international partners.”
Ms Payne claims the reports are credible showing the “systematic abuse and torture of women” in Xinjiang, as well as re-education camps, religious persecution and forced sterilization.
He said Australia had consistently pushed the UN high commissioner for human rights to be granted “open and free” access to the region, but it had been denied by Chinese authorities.
In real-life scenes, Australian journalists are shown a video – entitled “Xinjiang is a Beautiful Land” – claiming the region has been “transformed … into a land of life, a land of flourishing vitality”.
Various Uyghur Muslims in the video deny their religious freedom has been restricted, while representatives of the Chinese regime emphatically deny any wrongdoing.
Beijing insists its crackdown in Xinjiang is a response to a separatist insurgency driven by Uighurs, and denies human rights abuses in the camps.
Liberal supporter Eric Abetz described Wednesday’s event as a “sickening display of propaganda”, but Payne was more reluctant to criticize the show in person.
“The first thing I want to emphasize is the value of free media, freedom of the press and freedom of speech,” he said.
“So the opportunity is available to diplomats in Canberra … I think that says a lot about the principles that underpin our democratic system.”
Cheng said China “will not bite the bullet of sanctions” in what is seen as a warning to Canberra.
Ms Payne stressed Canberra was not imposing sanctions on Beijing, but said it had been “clear and consistent” in using international mechanisms to address human rights abuses.
“Australia has always been very clear, not only in terms of (abuse of Uyghurs), but in terms of human rights issues more broadly,” he said.
“Where they concern us, we will explain our views, wherever they are.”
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the government would protect the country’s sovereignty and national interests, in response to a warning from the Chinese ambassador that they would “respond in kind” if Canberra participated in sanctioning officials accused of human rights abuses.
“It’s something that we explained is non-negotiable,” Tehan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t have productive relationships. Good friends can always have very difficult conversations. “
International tension has occurred flared up reports of forced labor being used to harvest cotton in China’s western province of Xinjiang, prompted several countries to sanction Communist Party officials. Beijing has dismissed accusations about its behavior against mostly Uyghur Muslims as politically motivated lies. At the end of last month retaliation was announced penalty on individuals in the US and Canada, plus those previously enforced in the UK and the European Union.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, at the 23 March meeting statement with its New Zealand counterparts, said the government had “grave concern” over reports of human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and welcomed actions taken by the US, Canada, Britain and the European Union.
Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said Wednesday that people should not be under the illusion “that China is going to swallow the bitter pill” to meddle in its domestic affairs, or attempt to mount a “pressure” campaign.
Relations between Australia and its biggest trading partner have deteriorated since last April, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government asked that independent investigators be allowed into Wuhan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. Since then, Beijing has implemented various trade measures against Australian goods, including coal, wine and barley.
Tehan sought to emphasize the importance of economic ties between Australia and China as opposed to mounting political tensions.
“It helps millions of people in China get out of poverty and helps grow our economy so we really think we can have a constructive relationship,” he said. “But that constructive relationship will be built on us protecting our sovereignty and national interests. We have explained it very clearly. “
Separately, the minister, who is also in charge of tourism and investment, said the government was currently focused on increasing and running the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand before looking to expand it elsewhere.
“We will then see what our other options are. I had discussions beforehand with my Singaporean counterpart to see if we might want to expand the bubble to Singapore and I will continue with that, “he said. “Clearly there are opportunities with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, all of which have been successful in dealing with Covid-19.”
The high court in Pakistan has asked came to power in the Tehreek-e-Insaf party to revitalize the country’s National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), an independent rights watchdog that has been inactive since 2019, amid accusations that the government is deliberately halting its functions.
Activists and former NCHR workers have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government of delaying the appointment of a leadership role to the commission, to avoid accountability. violation of human rights, especially those carried out in the hands of the state military.
After discovering several faults with previous government advertisements for leadership roles on the commission, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on March 29 directed the federal government to issue advertisements for the new chairman and members of the NCHR.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah ruled the previous advertisement for the NCHR’s position to be unconstitutional. The first ad includes a maximum age limit, which the court says must be removed to make the selection process more inclusive.
Another issue was raised regarding the ambiguity of advertising language, as the phrase “asking for suggestions for a match” does not mean the same thing as the term “inviting app”.
Minallah then directed the Ministry of Human Rights to convey the names of potential candidates to the prime minister and opposition leaders, after receiving suggestions. The court also directed the ministry to present its orders and new summaries at the next cabinet meeting.
The former chairman of the commission, Judge Ali Nawaz Chowhan, told DW that the inconsistencies in these advertisements were deliberately placed by the government, as officials had a vested interest in sabotaging the commission’s efforts to monitor and report. peak human rights violations,like enforced disappearance.
“This government has no drive or desire to really work for human rights. What’s the point of having a Ministry of Human Rights without having an independent human rights commission?” said Chowhan.
The NCHR member’s four-year term ends on 30 May 2019, and since then, the role has not been filled.
The role of the NCHR in international conventions
The NCHR Act was introduced in 2012, to mandate promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights according to the constitution and international treaties. One of its mandates is to adhere to the Paris Principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly. Pakistan is the beneficiary of the below economy General Preference System (GSP) and is responsible for implementing the UN Core International Human Rights Treaty.
While the commission was set up to meet the criteria set by international conventions, critics say the NCHR’s future findings could risk Pakistan’s economic benefits like the GSP.
“The government has reduced the NCHR to a framework. We published 35 reports, brought attention and investigated human rights abuses, but the government does not want its failures to be exposed, which is why they postponed this appointment, so that the international image does not suffer,” said Chowhan.
Blame-game between political parties
Speaking to DW, Pakistan’s Minister of Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, denied that the government had deliberately delayed appointments, and said officials had followed the due process by advertising in 2019, at the end of its last term.
Mazari noted that the NCHR post had been advertised back in October 2020, and that PM Khan had sent a preference list to the head of the opposition in December.
“We keep getting excuses from the opposition, who haven’t sent us their nominations. They keep saying it’s because of him [opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif] is in jail but it looks like he’s not functioning. The pressure has to be on the opposition, not us, so we can really move forward from this issue, “said Mazari.
He added that delays have also occurred due to logistical and legal congestion. “We change the whole law to be smoother or do it now, that’s how it works today,” he said.
According to a December 2020 CIVICUS Monitor report, the state of civilian space in Pakistan continues to be classified as “oppressed”. According to Human Rights Watch, in 2020, the Pakistani government harassed and sometimes prosecuted human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists for criticizing the government, and using its ruthless sedition and anti-terrorism laws to silence dissent.
Prominent human rights defender Tahira Abdullah told DW that he believed Pakistani human rights activists had an obligation to defend a completely independent NCHR.
“The NCHR can only be effective if a truly independent chairman and commissioner is appointed, and only if all interference in the autonomy of the NCHR, which is carried out by state institutions, political offices and the bureaucracy,” said Abdullah.
Uighur community leaders say Australia should be ashamed of allowing Chinese government propaganda presentations to take place, and have called for the alleged atrocities against the minority group to be branded genocide.
Uyghur community leaders said the materials provided by the Chinese embassy were “absurd”
They said it was part of a move to legitimize the crackdown on people in the Xinjiang region
Those whose families are missing or detained have appealed to the Australian government to help those in re-education camps
Their comments came after the Chinese embassy in Canberra held a press conference in which journalists played five propaganda videos about conditions in Xinjiang in China’s far west.
The United Nations calls these facilities “re-education camps”.
The press conference was attended by government officials in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
The video, titled Xinjiang Is A Wonderful Land, features the Chinese government’s interpretation of human rights issues in the region, including forced sterilization, concentration camps and forced labor.
In the video, a woman is shown saying she had voluntarily installed an intrauterine device (IUD) while another stressed that she was more satisfied with her life after receiving “training” from one of the re-education camps.
The fact that the Chinese government allows Uyghur parents in Xinjiang to have more than one child per family is also used in an attempt to show there is no genocide in the region.
Six speakers from Uyghur backgrounds also shared their “true stories” that echoed the Party’s narrative after the screening. Most of them are also women.
Chinese Ambassador Chen Jingye stated that the press conference was aimed at “helping Australian journalists understand the real situation in Xinjiang”.
He criticized the Western media accusations for being based on fake news and misinformation.
Xinjiang Deputy Governor Erkin Tuniyaz also spoke.
Both the governor and the video have very familiar themes, saying that the government maintains “ethnic harmony” in Xinjiang while cracking down on terrorism.
In Tuniyaz’s 20-minute speech, he emphasized the “prosperity” and “harmony” of the region.
He said Western media and politicians lied about the alleged treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities.
Members of the Uyghur community in Australia tell a different story.
Abdurrahim told the ABC his wife was once taken to a re-education camp after he returned to Xinjiang from Malaysia, where the family lived for about three years, with their two children.
He said he did not believe the video Chinese officials played at a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday afternoon.
“Their passports were confiscated,” said Abdurrahim.
“The CGTN (China Global Television Network) has just made counter claims and falsely accused me of being a family abandonment.
“Because in that propaganda case, they also said that my wife was arrested in 2019 for provoking ethnic hatred, which is one of the common charges leveled against Uighurs who are detained illegally after being held in concentration camps for years.”
Mr Abdurrahim said he was trying his best to defend his wife and was awaiting her release.
But he said the press conference had angered him.
“It just doesn’t make sense. It makes me angry and makes me even shiver because I can’t find the words … to describe that outrageous claim. It’s outrageous to say people are happy,” he said.
“How can people who have been subjected to massive persecution be happy?
“It’s just propaganda that doesn’t make sense.”
Australia asked to stop allowing the CCP to spread propaganda
Nurmuhammad Majid, president of the East Turkistan Australian Association, described the Chinese campaign as a “propaganda mission” for both domestic and international audiences.
“They are advocating for the legitimacy of the oppressive policies in the Xinjiang region,” Majid told the ABC.
“But they ignore the factual basis of how Uighur countries are actually living in the worst conditions and the worst we have seen since 2017.
Majid said the Chinese government had shown the videos on various platforms to “deceive the international community”.
“Today’s briefing in Canberra by the Chinese authorities is actually another way of deception,” he said, adding that more than 20 of his family members were detained and sent to re-education camps in Xinjiang.
“And I call on the Australian government and the public to be humiliated for allowing the Chinese government to have such a large platform in a democratic country to spread its political agenda.
“Australia has morals, ethics [and] a legal obligation to label atrocities committed by the Chinese government a form of genocide. “
No contact with the family for three years
Reyhangul Abliz, a Uyghur woman living in Melbourne, said she had several relatives who were missing, detained or imprisoned.
“I am here to testify that my parents and other family relatives have been arrested by the Chinese communist regime,” Abliz told the ABC.
“Some of them have been held in the camp since 2017, and have not been released.”
He said his father, 71, and mother, 68, were both successful businessmen who were victims of China’s re-education camps.
“They are typical Chinese concentration camp victims,” he said.
Ms Abliz said her parents were not criminals and neither of them needed any training.
“It’s been more than three years now. I completely lost touch with my parents and other siblings,” he said.
“Every minute I suffer this situation about my parents.
“I appeal to the Australian government to help all my people, my parents, and try to help them through the worst situation.
The prime minister’s statement sets a dangerous precedent and encourages misogynistic and prejudiced opinion
Pakistan is a colonial country. Living in a colonial hangover are men and women (the bourgeoisie) making overarching statements, leading to a toxic social environment that hinders social reform and progress. Since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took control of power in 2018, their ideals of women (Muslim), Islam and piety seem confused and often polarized.
In a recent stream of controversial opinion, Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again blamed fahashi (vulgar) to increase sexual crimes against women and children. To strengthen his argument, he explained how veil (women cover-up and modesty) keep “temptation” in control, and how every society has individuals with “weak will power”, (hence romanticizing a lack of control in men).
The Prime Minister of Pakistan ostensibly bears the responsibility of being “raped” on his victims without considering that rape and other sexual offenses are often linked to coercion of power. Look to domestic statistics, at least 12 cases of rape are reported every day in Punjab alone. More than 22,000 cases were reported in the past six years, of which only 77 ended in convictions, which is 0.3 percent. Now of course the victims are not all dressed immodestly.
Pakistani officials have received national and international criticism for making similar remarks to those made by the prime minister after highway incident in September 2020. In February 2021, the Forensic Department of Khyber Medical College (KMC) recommended that medical examinations for victims of rape should be respected. Rs 25,000. While these are not the only services that are suggested to raise prices, they are definitely the highest ever, even at the suggested DNA analysis price of Rs 20,000.
The prime minister’s statement sets a dangerous precedent and encourages misogynistic and prejudiced opinion, which also holds women accountable for their own security because the state will not improve the legal system. Statements like these condone rape, ignore the abuse of power involved and prominently flaunt the notion of women “asking for it”.
They went on to draw divisions, establishing a clear dichotomy between women who dress “modestly” and are thus considered pious and those who are not, pitting one another. They deny women’s autonomy over their bodies and the choices they make in relation to them. They put women on a pedestal, trading security, respect and dignity in exchange for ‘piety’.
It cannot be stressed enough that women in Pakistan, a patriarchal society, are associated with honor and piety. In hetero-normative societies like ours, statements like these ignore crimes against men, children and against those in the transgender and queer community. They ignore domestic violence, marital rape, human trafficking and sex. Sticking to modesty alone promotes a national culture of victim blaming, which also makes it easier for women to deny their rights including security.
It seems that our leaders do not want to be aware that these crimes exist and are therefore not ultimately responsible for their emergence. To offer social, religious and cultural reasons for crimes like these or even so-called solutions, can only lead to a stricter environment for women.
The legal vacuum in sexual assault cases prevents survivors from reporting their cases to the authorities. In fact, it was only this year in February for the first time in Pakistan’s history the Lahore High Court (LHC) banned. virginity test in Punjab.
Judge Ayesha A Malik’s decision said “Virginity testing is highly invasive, has no scientific or medical requirements, but is carried out in the name of medical protocol in cases of sexual assault”.
While only in March, in a verdict awarded by the Supreme Court (SC), Judge Mansoor Ali Shah said “A woman, regardless of sexual character or reputation, is entitled to the same legal protection. No one has permission to attack or violate his privacy on the basis of alleged immoral character “.
The ruling further instructed all parties involved to avoid using language that degrading women’s character, negating their legal rights to protection and justice. The least the prime minister can do is remember and respect the historic decisions taken by Judge LHC Malik and Judge SC Shah. Her remarks cannot help but make people think that her eventual idea of an Islamic welfare state came at the expense of women and their autonomy. His statement further seems to be the reasonprotect the perpetrator through wrong social morality.
This statement does not encourage changing the mindset of society, which is patriarchal and misogynistic, nor does it provide much assurance to victims of rape or women in general, regardless of their social status. I’ve been told that Prime Minister Khan may have a lot of mistakes but being a defender of rape is not one of them, but with statements like this one can’t help but wonder if that’s true.