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President Hu's human rights record has no place in Australia's Parliament

By Brian Harradine - posted Tuesday, 28 October 2003

The People’s Republic of China has an appalling human rights record.

It tortures and ill-treats prisoners. It conducts more executions than all other countries combined. It carries out forced abortions and sterilisations on women. It continues to persecute the people of Tibet. It tramples on the rights of political activists. It represses the rights of workers and stops people freely expressing their religious and spiritual beliefs.

Last week Australia rolled out the red carpet for the man who oversees these human rights violations - Chinese President Hu Jintao. For the first time, the Australian Government honoured the head of state of a non-democratic country by arranging a special joint sitting of our democratically-elected parliament for him to address.


President Hu will be the fourth head of state of a foreign power to address a joint sitting of Australia’s Parliament and the first from a one-party state. Are we now going to so honour every dictator who visits our shores?

Another president addressed Australia’s Parliament last week and also came in for criticism. I have argued that the invasion of Iraq did not meet the principles of a just war. Nonetheless, United States President George W Bush is the head of a thriving democracy with an infinitely better human rights record. So why have there been more protests about Bush than Hu?

Last week Australians remembered the first anniversary of the tragic events of Bali, where 202 people lost their lives. This was a despicable act of terrorism.

Fourteen years ago in June 1989 democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing were broken up by troops. Between 1,000 and 2,600 protesters were killed. Terrorists did not kill them; their own government did. The Chinese government later confirmed that over 2,500 demonstrators had been arrested, though other estimates were as high as 4,000. The PRC has still not accounted for those killed, injured or imprisoned.

Amnesty International’s 2003 report on China stated "serious human rights violations continued and in some respects the situation deteriorated."

Amnesty International reported that China executed more people than all other countries combined. Estimates range as high as 20,000 executions per year. A US Congress human rights committee has heard evidence of the horrifying practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners. Skin, corneas, kidneys and other tissues were harvested and sold for profit. Now China is deliberately cloning human embryos to experiment on them.


Apparently there’s good news on executions in China. The Chinese Government’s official Human Rights magazine offers the reassurance that "the transition from firing squad to lethal injection means the elevation of the degree of human civilisation and social progress." Lethal injection apparently can reduce "the psychological and physiological pains added to the condemned in the deprivation of life. This is no doubt a respect for human rights". No doubt.

China carries out violence against women through the most barbaric population control policy in the world. Forced sterilisation, forced abortion, forced fitting of IUDs, female foeticide and infanticide and sex selection are the result.

And let’s not forget the case of the eight months pregnant Chinese woman we deported in 1997. She was forcibly aborted on arrival in China. Prime Minister John Howard said at the time "it offends my own instincts … and the instincts of millions of Australians". The Prime Minister also commented "most Australians would consider it murder". Such "murder" is an everyday event under China’s one-child policy.

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This article was first published in The Age on 23 October 2003.

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About the Author

Senator Brian Harradine was an independent Senator for Tasmania.

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