South China Sea crisis: Australia make defiant warning to China as tensions spill over



CHINA is asserting its authority in the contested waters of the South China Sea with controversial foreign policy and invasive military activity, but it is domestic issues in Beijing that rivals Australia have issued a defiant warning over.

Canberra has told President Xi Jinping via a statement that it will hold Beijing to account for human rights transgressions in the country’s Xinjiang region. Many Uighur muslims have been locked up in chilling “re-education camps” which aim to force Islamic communities to abandon their faith in favour of state support. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Tuesday: “We must respect each other’s sovereignty, but we will consistently continue to raise issues such as human rights, including, as I have said, with China.

“Turning a blind eye to all human rights violations means an acceptance of behaviour that undermines the foundations of international peace and stability. Where there is no challenge, there is no progress.”

She added: “We have also addressed the treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province in China.”

The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Payne had “ignored the facts”, particularly with her remarks in Xinjiang.

He added: “This is really not good, and does not benefit the improvement and development of the two countries’ relations.

“China has already lodged stern representations with Australia about this, to say this way of doing things is very inappropriate.

“We hope the Australian side can reflect on, and learn the lessons of the recent disturbances in Sino-Australian relations.”

Souring relations have strained trade between the two countries despite China being a crucial partner for Australia.