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Foreign Affairs Trade, Political

Two-thirds of Australians value Human Rights accountability over trade with China

Australia Tibet Council 2 mins read

CANBERRA, ACT, (4 September 2023) - Tibetans from across Australia will meet in Canberra to speak with Parliamentarians today for what is the 12th annual Tibet Lobby Day organised by Australia Tibet Council.

Tibet Lobby Day empowers Tibetans in Australia to speak directly to Australian Parliamentarians about the ongoing human rights violations in Tibet.

This year’s delegates are bolstered by the knowledge that up to 70% of Australians want to see stronger accountability on human rights according to an Essential Media poll.

A further 48% of Australians surveyed would only support a resumption of trade relations with China if trade relations were paired with increased human rights accountability.

18% of Australians surveyed said they would not support a resumption of trade relations because of China's human rights failings.

“These results come as no surprise to me," said Dr Zoe Bedford, Executive Officer of Australia Tibet Council, ahead of 2023 Tibet Lobby Day.

“It is disappointing that, while human rights are declining even further in Tibet, the Australian Government is rewarding Chinese Government officials with trade deals rather than issuing Magnitsky sanctions for their human rights abuses.”

Last week, the US Government imposed visa sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for pursuing forced assimilation of children in Tibet.

Occupied for over seven decades, China’s rule in Tibet is one of the last remnants of 20th-century colonialism, epitomised today by a vast system of residential colonial boarding schools intended to assimilate close to one million Tibetan children into majority Han Chinese culture.

A report released on 6 February 2023 by a group of UN human rights experts found the residential school system for Tibetan children contrary to international human rights standards.

“It is estimated up to 150,000 four- and five-year-olds in rural areas of Tibet are being forced to attend boarding preschools where they must sleep at least five nights a week away from the care and protection of their parents,” says Dr Bedford.

Further concern was raised by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in Geneva where expert committee members reiterated strong concern about the erosion of Tibetan language.

“This Chinese Government policy has a striking similarity to Australia's own sad colonialist history and Stolen Generation,” said Ms Sonam Choedon.

“The practice of removing children from their homes for the purpose of assimilation and cultural eradication should be put into the dustbin of history.”

Sonam Choedon, a Canberra-based Tibetan community leader and first-time delegate, has been preparing to join 15 fellow delegates in Canberra today representing the Tibetan people.

“Today we are calling on Prime Minister Albanese and allied G20 leaders to release a robust joint statement of concern supporting the UN investigation into the separation of up to one million Tibetan children from their families and uphold the current constitutional and statutory protections for Tibetan language promotion and preservation,” Ms Choedon said. 

“It really helps to know that the Government’s decision to resume trade with China is unpopular and that most Australians actually want more human rights accountability in China – that they value this more than trade.

We are asking the Australian Government not to trade away Australia’s values.”


Key Facts:

Media Presser: Senate Courtyard, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT

1.30pm Monday 4th September 2023


About us:

Australia Tibet Council campaigns for the freedom and human rights of Tibetans.

Contact details:

For further information or to arrange interviews contact: Dr Zoe Bedford, Executive Officer, Australia Tibet Council 0408 262 576


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