The prime ministers of Australia and the UK have once again expressed serious concern about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China. They called on Beijing to respect the rights of the Muslim minority in the region.
According to a joint statement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his British counterpart Boris Johnson and discussed bilateral relations and the situation in China and the Indo-Pacific region.
The two leaders expressed serious concern 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, as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
Several countries have accused China of ethnic cleansing of Uighurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority, in Xinjiang. Beijing, however, denies any wrongdoing and rejects 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 limits the autonomy of the Special Administrative Region and violates the “one country, two systems”principle under which the former British colony was returned to China.
The leaders of the UK and Australia also reiterated their support for Taiwan to participate as a member in international organizations, which China opposes.
China claims Taiwan as its breakaway province, but the former has been pushing for its independence since 1949 and has established full diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.
Morrison and Johnson opposed any unilateral action that could escalate tension in the region and reaffirmed their stance against Beijing’s “attempt to dominate the disputed South China Sea”.
“The leaders recognized the importance of allowing countries to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea in accordance with the UN Convention on the law of the sea.”
Last year, Australia, the US and the UK signed the AUKUS security pact, which is seen as another attempt to counter China’s growing economic and military influence in the region. It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines using technology provided by the US.
China says the deal will undermine regional peace and stability and intensify the arms race.
The leaders welcomed the entry into force of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement, which will allow the UK and US to share information about the Navy’s nuclear propulsion with Australia.
Australia is also part of the Quad, a strategic grouping with the US, Japan and India that is reportedly aimed at reducing Chinese domination in Asia-Pacific.
The two leaders also expressed serious concern about the current situation in Myanmar, where the military took power last year and called for an immediate end to violence against the civilian population and the release of all prisoners.