File photo: Scott Morrison and Xi Jinping Photograph:( Twitter )
Activists and U.N. experts say that more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held against their will in harsh camps in the remote western region
Australia's Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Wednesday that the country's sovereignty is non-negotiable in response to a warning from China’s ambassador that it will “respond in kind” if Canberra joins sanctions on officials accused of human rights abuses.
Activists and U.N. experts say that more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held against their will in harsh camps in the remote western region. China denies all accusations of abuse.
Over the past week, H&M, Burberry, Nike, Adidas and other Western brands have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after raising concerns about forced labour in Xinjiang.
The wave of boycotts coincided with sanctions imposed by Britain, Canada, the European Union, and the United States over what they say are human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang.
Earlier, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on March 23 had raised ''grave concerns'' over reports of human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said Wednesday that people should not be under the illusion “that China would swallow the bitter pill” of meddling in its internal affairs, nor attempts to mount a “pressure” campaign.
Australia’s ties with top trade partner China soured in 2018 when it became the first country to publicly ban China’s Huawei from its 5G network, and worsened after Canberra called for an enquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
Tit-for-tat diplomatic reprisals have since followed, including raids on the homes of Chinese journalists in Australia, evacuation of some Australian journalists from China and a raft of trade measures imposed by China on Australian exports.
Late last year, Australia also called for the WTO to investigate Chinese tariffs on barley imports, following a series of economic sanctions or disruptions to Australian products to China's vast market.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries have reached their lowest since the deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking in Sydney, accused Beijing of using the tariffs as "retaliation".
Morrison also said Australia stood with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after China imposed sanctions on several people in the UK and EU over their vocal support for the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of abuses.