Banned Hastie rejects China 'repent' call

World | REUTERS 18 Nov 2019

Two Australian lawmakers denied entry to China for a study tour because of their criticism of Beijing must "repent and redress their mistakes" if they want to visit the country, Chinese diplomats in Canberra said.

Andrew Hastie and James Paterson were to visit the country next month on a trip organized by the China Matters think-tank, but they said they had been barred because of their "frankness about the Chinese Communist Party."

The two conservative members of parliament have been increasingly critical of the Chinese regime, its attempts to exert influence in Australia and of Beijing's handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Hastie was condemned in August for an article in Australian newspapers in which he warned about China's influence, comparing Beijing's rise to the threat from Nazi Germany.

Hastie is not a minister but is an influential member of Australia's ruling Liberal-National coalition. He chairs parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

Beijing's embassy in Canberra issued a statement late on Saturday to say China is open to dialogue as long as critics "genuinely repent and redress their mistakes."

An embassy spokesman added: "The Chinese people do not welcome those who make unwarranted attacks, wantonly exert pressure on China, [which] will never yield to colonization of ideas and values."

But Hastie responded: "We will not repent for standing up for Australian sovereignty, our values, our interests and for those who cannot speak for themselves."

Australia's relations with China, its most important trading partner, have deteriorated in recent years amid accusations Beijing is meddling in domestic affairs.

Canberra also fears China is seeking undue influence in the Pacific region.

China Matters, an Australia-based think-tank, said tours for politicians and business executives are to "facilitate informal discussion with citizens of the People's Republic of China."

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