Australia-China Huang Xiangmo Chinese lobbyist blocked communist party
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s decision to stand up for the rights of Australian citizens detained in China’s opaque legal system is a long overdue first for an Australian government of any stripe.

The forcefulness of Canberra’s statement on the case of detained Chinese-Australian writer and activist Yang Hengjun, and the equal heft and sharp dismissiveness of China’s official response, underscores a fundamental roadblock in Australia’s relationship with China: that China has no respect for the Australian passport, the Australian legal system or indeed Australia as a nation state.