Chinese embassy accuses Canberra of ‘despicable smearing’ of China after Australian foreign minister raises ‘grave concerns’ about human rights

Australia and New Zealand have raised grave concerns about human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Chinas Xinjiang region, citing the growing number of credible reports of severe violations.
But while both countries have welcomed new coordinated sanctions announced by the UK, US, the EU and Canada, they have not announced any such measures of their own.
The Guardian understands this is because Australia and New Zealand lack Magnitsky-style laws that would allow the swift rollout of targeted sanctions against individuals for human rights abuses but the Morrison government is expected to table draft legislation later this year.
The foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand, Marise Payne and Nanaia Mahuta, stepped up their criticism of China in a joint statement on Tuesday.
They called on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts, and other independent observers.
The Australian and New Zealand Governments today reiterate their grave concerns about the growing number of credible reports of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, the statement said.
In particular, there is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.
The statement follows an announcement that Britain and the EU are taking joint action with the US and Canada to impose parallel sanctions on senior Chinese officials involved in the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The sanctions to be imposed immediately include travel bans and asset freezes on four officials, according to the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who said Chinas treatment of the Uighur minority was the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war.
The Chinese government has accused western governments and organisations of spreading lies about the situation in Xinjiang and interfering in Chinas internal affairs. Beijing has already responded by sanctioning five members of the European parliament.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra hit back at Paynes statement on Tuesday afternoon, accusing the Australian government of engaging in the despicable tactic of smearing China while declaring the such attempts were entirely futile.
The embassys spokesperson said the Australian government should reflect upon and address its own problems, in particular the killings of innocent civilians by Australian overseas military personnel, the worsening situation of racial discrimination, the long-standing insufficiency in the protection of the rights of Aboriginal peoples as well as the inhumane treatment of detainees in the offshore detention centres.
Earlier, the Australian and New Zealand foreign ministers welcomed the measures announced by their western counterparts.
We share these countries deep concerns, which are held across the Australian and New Zealand communities, Payne and Mahuta said.
Since 2018, when reports began to emerge about the detention camps in Xinjiang, Australia and New Zealand have consistently called on China in the United Nations to respect the human rights of the Uighur people, and other religious and ethnic minorities.
The pair said they wanted to underscore the importance of transparency and accountability and reiterate the call for meaningful access for UN investigators.
An Australian government source confirmed it had been part of discussions with its counterparts ahead of the coordinated joint sanctions being announced.
The Guardian understands the EU and the other three countries were able to move quickly because they have laws to impose targeted sanctions against individuals for human rights abuses.
On Monday, Australias House of Representatives debated but did not vote on a motion expressing abhorrence that the Chinese Government continues to engage in serious and systematic breaches of the human rights of its peoples.
The proposed motion moved by the government backbencher Kevin Andrews and seconded by the opposition MP Chris Hayes also noted how several other parliaments had recognised the situation in Xinjiang as genocide.
Andrews said it was a time when this parliament should speak with one voice and he called on the Australian government to take greater action to enforce laws against modern slavery and to identify supply chains that use forced labour.
The Labor MP Mike Freelander among 12 parliamentarians to register their concerns during the debate told parliament: As someone who is Jewish, I really do understand the terrible difficulties that are placed in front of the Uighur people. It does have echoes of Germany in the 1930s. I think it is very concerning.
The outspoken government backbencher George Christensen said: The road to Auschwitz was paved with indifference, and if we remain indifferent to the Chinese Communist partys treatment of ethnic and religious groups we will forever wear the shame of having stood by and watched when we could have acted.
The Chinese embassys spokesperson accused a handful of MPs of engaging in ridiculous and absurd rhetoric on Xinjiang.
Last week the Australian Senate opted against considering a motion put forward by the independent senator Rex Patrick to declare the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang as genocide. The motion was denied formality on the basis it was a complex matter of foreign affairs.
Chinas foreign ministry last week blamed Australias wrong words and deeds for driving the relationship between the two countries to a low point, as Beijing rebuffed the Biden administrations call to cease its trade actions against Canberra.