National Security


June 18, 2024

Tuesday 18 June 2024
Clare Armstrong
Daily Telegraph

 Tense clashes between protesters and intimidating media tactics during  Chinese Premier Li Qiang's visit to the nation's capital have shattered the  friendly facade of Beijing's relations with Australia.
 The visit of China's secondin-charge to Canberra yesterday was overshadowed  by thuggish treatment of prodemocracy protesters on the lawns of Parliament  House and a clumsy attempt to block Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei  from the view of news cameras in the building.
 Australian officials raised concerns with their Chinese counterparts about Ms  Cheng's treatment, but the Opposition said Anthony Albanese should have later  called it out publicly.
 The Prime Minister hosted Mr Li for the annual ChinaAustralia leaders'  meeting where the pair signed updated agreements to strengthen cooperation on  trade, climate change, education and cultural exchange.
 Outside parliament, protesters from the Hong Kong pro-democracy, Tibet and  Uyghur human rights and the Falun Gong movements clashed with Chinese  government supporters.
 Hundreds of people carrying Chinese and Australian flags welcomed Mr Li to  Canberra, which sparked scuffles with protesters who reported having their  own signs and flags targeted.
 ACT Policing arrested one person for a "breach of the peace" during  the protests.
 The tense scenes were at odds with the red carpet welcome for Mr Li and his  delegation, who stayed for a state lunch attended by Opposition leader Peter  Dutton and Australian business leaders.
 The situation worsened when two Chinese Embassy something that they think  would be a 'bad look,' but that was a bad look," she said.
 Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet officials sparked outrage  by blocking Ms Cheng from the view of cameras in a room where Mr Albanese and  Mr Li were due to give remarks.
 Ms Cheng, who now works for Sky News Australia after being released from a  Beijing prison in October, said the Chinese officials went to "great  lengths" to obscure her.
 "I'm guessing that they wanted to prevent me from saying something or  doing (PM&C) staff repeatedly asked the Chinese officials to move, but  they were ignored.
 Ms Cheng later swapped seats with another journalist, and the Chinese  officials were physically blocked from standing in front of her again by the  Australian staff.
 A PM&C official described the behaviour of their Chinese counterparts as  the "height of rudeness" and raised the issue with the travelling  delegation.
 Ms Cheng was jailed in China for three years after being convicted for  espionage while she was working for Chinese state TV, an allegation she has  denied. Her release in October was secured after intense lobbying from the  Albanese Government.
 Mr Albanese said he was not aware of the incident at his press conference,  but that it was "important that people be allowed to participate  fully".
 "That's what should happen in this building, or anywhere else in  Australia," he said.
 Coalition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said it was "completely  not credible" for the PM to be unaware of the widely reported exchange,  suggesting Mr Albanese was simply attempting to "evade scrutiny".
 "We do not body block jourChinese military activity in international  waters endangered the lives of Australian Defence Force personnel.
 Mr Li said he "sincerely" hoped to work to build a more  "mature, stable and fruitful" relationships with Australia.
 China's ongoing trade impediments on Australian lobster exports were also  raised,with Agriculture Minisnalists from filming in our Parliament House and  for Chinese officials to behave this way in our country shows disrespect for  our parliament and our customs," Mr Paterson said. "Frankly, I  think there should be an apology from the Chinese delegation." Mr  Paterson said it was important Australia strategically criticised the Chinese  Government. "We shouldn't be cowed into silence," he said.
 Speaking after his meeting with Mr Li, Mr Albanese confirmed he directly  raised concerns about the ongoing imprisonment and welfare of  Chinese-Australian academic Yang Hengjun, who was handed a suspended death  sentence in China earlier this year.
 Mr Albanese also revealed the countries had agreed to improve "military  communication" after two serious incidents where  "unprofessional" ter Murray Watt saying he was "hopeful"  of a resolution.
 Mr Li will today take part in the Australia-China CEO roundtable in Perth  with the local diaspora, and also tour Fortescue's hydrogen research and  development centre.
 Fortescue Metals chief Andrew Forrest said he wanted to show the Asian  superpower Australia was "walking the talk" on the green  transition.
 Mr Forrest said China's desire to reduce pollution around its large cities  made a future green ore export industry from Australia a trade "marriage  made in heaven".

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