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China warns Australia against sanctions over alleged human rights abuses

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 5 days ago Jonathan Kearsley

Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, addresses the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) at Parliament House, Canberra, June 19, 2018. (Photo by Alex Ellinghausen/The Sydney Morning Herald via Getty Images) © 2018 Fairfax Media

Australia has been warned China will "respond in kind" if Canberra sanctions Beijing over allegations genocide against the ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs.

Fronting a bizarre conference, Ambassador Cheng Jingye said China will not "swallow the bitter pill of interfering or meddling in China's internal affairs".

Ambassador Cheng was joined by government officials beamed in via Zoom from Xinjian for a two-hour media conference in Canberra, dismissing allegations of human rights abuses as "fake news" and "lies".

The media event featured heavily-produced propaganda-style videos about how life could look in the autonomous region of north-western China.

Also beamed in were residents of Xinjiang, spruiking life in what was called "a wonderful land", to dispel and dismiss a variety of allegations with have centred on the Chinese government and the people of the autonomous region.

Last month the US, Canada, the European Union and the UK imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, in what they described as "co-ordinated action" designed to send "a clear message about the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang".

At the time Australia issued a joint statement with New Zealand stopping short of issuing sanctions but saying "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".

On Wednesday, the Chinese Ambassador dismissed that view as "lies" and "rumours" warning if Australia follows its international allies it would make an already frosty relationship, colder.

"We will not provoke, but if we are provoked, we will respond in kind," Ambassador Cheng said.

It has been claimed up to one million Uyghurs are being held in what the Chinese government calls re-education camps.

a map of a building: Satellite imagery of a re-education internment camp holding Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang. © Getty Satellite imagery of a re-education internment camp holding Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

It's a number China has denied and today again rubbished.


Video: Chinese officials dispute claims of human rights abuses (ABC NEWS)

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Government official Xu Guixiang - who is in Xinjiang - was asked how many people were being held in camps there.

"Xinjiang already has re-education centres there are no things like concentration camps," he responded to Australian journalists.

Uyghurs who live in Australia have expressed concerns for family back home.

Marhaba Yaqub Salay has not spoken to her sister in more than two years.

Eight years ago, Marhaba's sister transferred money to her parents in Australia to buy a house.

In April 2019 she was detained accused of "giving material support to terrorist activity".

Marhaba has grave concerns for her welfare.

"Australia, please recognise genocide because Uyghur people are suffering from them and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) want to wipe all of us in our homeland," she told 9News.

READ MORE: Twitter deletes China's tweet on 'emancipated' Uighur women

a close up of a person wearing a mask: A woman wears a face mask reading 'Free Uyghurs' at a protest against alleged human rights abuses. © AP A woman wears a face mask reading 'Free Uyghurs' at a protest against alleged human rights abuses.

The Chinese Ambassador did say he wanted a "stable" relationship with Australia after the Chinese government slapped tariffs or bans on Australian coal, wine, barley, lobster, beef and timber.

"We want a positive relationship, but we will have a positive relationship that is consistent with Australia acting in accordance with its values and its national character," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Australia still remains in the diplomatic freezer, with warnings it might get colder down there.

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