When Chinese President Xi Jinping enters the House of Representatives chamber this afternoon to address a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, many Australians will be wondering why he’s there. This is a chamber in which men and women elected by Australians debate and make decisions about what they believe is best for Australia and for the people who have voted for them. It is a chamber in which, no matter how much we disagree over key public policy issues, those issues are resolved, for better or worse, without bloodshed, violence or persecution.
The President may have difficulty understanding such concepts. The government he leads rules not through democracy but through the power of the Chinese military and a police state controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Xi’s government continues to detain, imprison and torture those who criticise it. Chinese provincial governments “disappear” lawyers, whistleblowers and complainants for years at a time. There are mass killings of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; in Tibet, hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars, and unlawful killing by authorities is routine under a system of brutal repression. Across China, there is no rule of law: over 99.9% of people prosecuted end up convicted, and over 2400 people were executed by the state last year. A vast state apparatus imposes blanket censorship and surveillance to support Xi’s regime.
Inevitably today there will be mention of “human rights”. That bland term fails to convey the immense brutality of the Chinese Communist regime directed toward its own people.
We may depend on Chinese demand for much of our national income; we may seek to strengthen and deepen economic ties with China — to do otherwise would be plainly not in our national interest. But like his predecessor Hu Jintao in 2003, no matter what diplomatically nuanced words are uttered, Xi Jinping disgraces our democratic Parliament with his presence.