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Papua New Guinea sides with China on Hong Kong

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Thursday, 16 July 2020

The United Nations Human Rights Council recently voted on a resolution supporting China's draconian national security law that has effectively crushed free speech and freedom of assembly in Hong Kong.

The resolution was carried with the support of 53 nations including Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and, of course, China. Many of the supportive nations have questionable human rights records.

The 'yes' votes included a mix of nations that always align with China and others, many from Africa, that were added to the list because they're locked into infrastructure projects under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative.


Papua New Guinea voted 'yes'. Sadly, that has not been reported in PNG's daily media, or even on social media.

By voting to support the crushing of free speech and freedom of assembly, among other basic rights, PNG voted against the spirit of its own constitution, adopted at independence in 1975, which guarantees those rights for its citizens, along with a free press.

To its enduring credit, PNG's Supreme Court has vigorously protected these constitutional freedoms against legislation and against regulations seeking to erode them or even put limits on them.

PNG's vote in the Human Rights Council is a sad reflection of the state of foreign policy in our closest neighbour. Instead of pursuing an independent policy, also provided for in the constitution, PNG is increasingly aligning itself with the People's Republic of China when it counts.

This has not been debated seriously in the national parliament or, I suspect, even by the National Executive Council, PNG's cabinet.

There can be only two reasons why PNG voted as it did, and as it increasingly does in regional and international forums. Both present serious foreign policy challenges, and regional security and stability challenges, for Australia.


First, PNG acted in similar fashion to the African nations lined up behind China - the PNG government signed up to the BRI in 2018 and that program is gradually expanding across the South Pacific.

There can be no doubt that funding, principally via heavily conditional loans, under the BRI for developing nations - and jurisdictions in developed countries, such as the state of Victoria in Australia - depends on these countries and jurisdictions supporting the PRC line in bodies where it exerts considerable influence, such as the Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization.

PNG is now locked into that, though neither the parliament nor the people were told this would be the case when, with much fanfare, PNG signed up to the BRI.

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This article was first published in The Strategist.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu – Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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