Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for Australia to sanction Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses against Uyghurs. Speaking at an Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China meeting in Tokyo on February 17, Morrison stated that there is “credible and actionable evidence” to back up the sanctions.
In November 2021, Australia’s Magnitsky-style laws were formally introduced, giving the country the power to impose sanctions against overseas human rights violators, including those in China who have been responsible for human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims, Christians, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners. The sanctions include freezing the assets of officials and their family members, as well as travel bans. In response, the Chinese regime on June 10, 2021, passed its own law to create an “anti-sanctions” list that forbids entry to listed individuals from entering China or expels those currently residing in China.
Morrison argued that, while it would be naive to believe that targeted sanctions of Chinese officials would lead to the elimination of such abuses, this should not prevent the sanctions from being put in place. He cited an August 2022 report from the Office of the Higher Commissioner on Human Rights which found “patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention” as well as “sexual and gender-based violence.”
Since the laws were passed in Australia, sanctions have been placed on 68 individuals and three entities, mainly Russian, Iranian, and Myanmar officials. Amnesty International has reported that the state of human rights continues to deteriorate in China, where human rights lawyers and activists face harassment and intimidation, unfair trials, lengthy detention, torture, and other ill-treatment.
Morrison warned that if the Chinese Communist Party became too powerful, it would be difficult to deal with human rights abuses. He also cautioned against falling for Beijing’s charm offensive, noting that “President Xi may have changed his tactics, but his intent is still the same.”