Senator James Paterson and West Australian Liberal Andrew Hastie have stoutly and correctly refused to ‘repent’ as requested by the Chinese government as the price for visiting their country. The trip appears to still be on for Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones.
It is regrettable, though, that Hastie and Paterson will not be going to China because, if they had, the pair of stalwart human rights defenders may have had opportunity to ask of the whereabouts of two men, Liu Hu and Dong Rubin.
The two, according to Human Rights Watch, were among the 15 anti-corruption activists arrested in Beijing and Jianxi province in 2013 for demanding that government officials publicly declare their assets.
Li Hu was an investigative journalist and blogger for the Guangzhou-based daily Xin Kuai Bao (‘Modern Express”) In September 2013 he was arrested, charged with posting comments about alleged corruption on Weibo, China’s Twitter. Liu is believed to be still being held in Beijing, after he was arrested in August 2013 and his Weibo account closed.
Microblogger and businessman Dong Rubin, who went by the nom de plume Bianmin (‘frontiersman’) ran an internet consulting company with over 50,000 online followers — and supported protests in Kunming residents protesting the construction of a petrochemical plant. Dong was arrested on grounds that he had exaggerated the capital funds available to his company operations. It is believed Dong may still be in detention.
Reporters Without Borders has reported that self-censorship is increasing at all levels in China, deterring journalists and bloggers from investigating embezzlement and other illegal practices by officials protected by the Party.
China is a signatory to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 35 of its own Constitution. In speaking out on human rights in China Senator Paterson and Mr Hastie were surely on firm ground.
It now appears that the only question left unasked is whether Labor’s Stephen Jones will stand with his fellow federal parliamentary colleagues and refuse the invitation — or accept the invitation and raise the subject of human rights in China with his hosts.
Let’s wait and see.
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