Sydney, Australia, Jul 5 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday he will continue to disagree with China on human rights, referring the arrest warrants and bounties Hong Kong issued for eight pro-democracy activists in exile.
“We will continue to cooperate with China where we can, but we will disagree where we must. And we do disagree over human rights issues,” Anthony Albanese told channel Nine on Wednesday, according to the transcript posted to the prime minister’s official website.
He also described the move against the eight exiles, including two living in Australia, as “unacceptable.”
On Monday, Hong Kong police issued arrest warrants and a HK$1 million ($128,000) bounty each for eight high-profile pro-democracy activists, former lawmakers and legal scholars in exile in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia – countries that do not have extradition treaties with China.
They are accused of crimes such as inciting succession and colluding with foreign forces, which can carry life sentences under Beijing’s draconian National Security Law, which was imposed on Hong Kong three years ago after the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Warrants were issued for two people living in Australia – lawyer Kevin Yam, who has citizenship of the Oceanian country, and Ted Hui, a former lawmaker.
After the announcement, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Tuesday said the country was “deeply concerned” by the move and that “freedom of expression and assembly are essential to our democracy and we support those in Australia who exercise those rights.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said on Tuesday that the exiles will be pursued “for the rest of our lives, even if they run to the ends of the earth.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning also lashed out “individual countries’ flagrant slandering against the national security law for Hong Kong and interference in the rule of law in the Hong Kong,” in reference to international condemnation of the move.
Albanese said his government continues to raise issues with China such as Chinese-Australian journalist “Cheng Lei’s unacceptable detention without proper processes being in place.”
Cheng, who worked as a presenter for state broadcaster CGTN, was arrested in China on Aug. 13, 2020 accused of illegally supplying state secrets overseas, and tried in March 2022 behind closed doors, with no known outcome yet.
In addition, Australia seeks the release of the Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, arrested in China in 2019, accused of espionage and tried in May 2021 behind closed doors, also with no known outcome. EFE