Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Call for press club ban: Chinese pressure media

August 13, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Walters, National security editor
The Australian
August 11, 2009

THE Chinese government tried to pressure the
National Press Club into cancelling a nationally
televised speech by Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, scheduled to take place today.

Political counsellor at the embassy Liu Jing met
press club officials last week and requested the
club withdraw the invitation to Ms Kadeer.

"Mr Liu said to us, 'You must withdraw the
invitation to Ms Kadeer.' He was insistent but
polite," a director of the club, who was present
at the meeting, told The Australian.

He said Mr Liu had pointed out that the Chinese
government believed it would be "regrettable" if
bilateral relations were harmed by Ms Kadeer speaking at the club.

"We hope you will be able to give us some good
news next week," Mr Liu told NPC directors. "We
hope that if this speech were to go ahead, it
would not be televised," he added.

The pressure to pull Ms Kadeer's press club
speech comes as bilateral relations are being
tested in the wake of the arrest of senior Rio
executive Stern Hu on espionage charges.

Australian consular officials in Shanghai are
expected to have their second visit with Mr Hu within days.

Mr Hu, Rio Tinto's Australian head of iron ore
operations in China, was arrested on July 5 with
three other senior company officials on suspicion
of stealing state secrets and causing damage to China's economic interests.

China also yesterday distanced itself from claims
that Rio Tinto had spied on Chinese steel mills
for six years and had cost the nation $122
billion, with an article making the allegations
yesterday removed from an official website.

Beijing has expressed its official displeasure at
Ms Kadeer's latest Australian visit every step of
the way, beginning with attempts to persuade Canberra not to grant her a visa.

It then tried to pressure the Melbourne
International Film Festival into pulling a new
film on Ms Kadeer, Ten Conditions of Love, which
premiered at the festival on the weekend.

The chief executive of the press club, Maurice
Reilly, yesterday declined to comment on the
half-hour meeting with Mr Liu, but club directors
made it clear to the Chinese embassy that they
were entitled to hear the views of Ms Kadeer.

The Australian understands that press club
officials at last week's meeting told Mr Liu that
the club's policy on nationally televised
speeches remained consistent with past practice.
Asked about her reaction to the latest pressure
from Beijing to drop today's speaking engagement,
Ms Kadeer told The Australian: "Australia is a
democratic country. It's not a province of China.

"China cannot impose its authoritarian will on
the whole world. Maybe China can impose its will
on us and the Tibetans, but not the whole world."

On Saturday, Mr Reilly wrote to Chinese
ambassador Zhang Junsai to reaffirm that today's
address would take place as planned.

He also conveyed an invitation from the press
club to "an appropriately senior representative
of the Chinese government" to deliver a speech to
the club on bilateral issues, including the detention in China of Mr Hu.

Ms Kadeer yesterday had an informal meeting with
a small group of federal MPs from parliament's
foreign affairs sub-committee and urged them to
try to help her people and the World Uighur
Congress, which she leads, to achieve a peaceful reconciliation with Beijing.

"We would like the Australian government to call
on the Chinese government to allow an immediate
and independent investigation into what happened
on July 5," (when serious rioting broke out in
Urumqi, the capital of the Uighur Autonomous
Region, killing at least 197 people) Ms Kadeer told The Australian.

One of the MPs present at the meeting, Labor's
Melissa Parke, said last night China's actions
over Ms Kadeer's Australian visit showed it was
trying to impede free speech. "Their every action
belies what they say about the freedoms in their own country," she said.

A government spokesman reiterated last night that
there were no plans for either Kevin Rudd or
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to meet Ms Kadeer during her visit.

Press club members recalled yesterday that the
Chinese embassy intervention was not the first
time Beijing had tried to apply diplomatic pressure.

Three years ago, when the then head of China's
state council information office, Cai Wu, was
scheduled to address the National Press Club, the
embassy in Canberra tried to persuade the NPC to
temporarily remove a photo of the Dalai Lama, who
had addressed the club several years earlier.

The press club politely refused and the Wu speech went ahead as scheduled.

The press club's long-serving director, Peter
Phillips, said yesterday the club had always
enjoyed a close and collaborative relationship with the Chinese embassy.

"We look forward to continuing to welcome
relevant speakers to the NPC addresses."

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown met Ms Kadeer
yesterday and will host a screening of The 10
Conditions of Love in parliament this morning.

Senator Brown also plans to move a motion in
support of Uighur self-determination in the Senate on Thursday.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank