China has accused Australian politicians of colluding with ‘terrorists’ in Xinjiang and warned Canberra it will get “burned” if it continues to back Uyghur activists.
The comments are the latest salvo in a war-of-words over the region, where human rights groups warn the Muslim Uyghur minority face horrific abuses.
Chinese media has seized on an article, published by fringe political group the Australian Citizens Party, criticising local politicians’ support for the East Turkistan Australian Association (ETAA), a Uyghur advocacy group.
The article claimed the ETAA supported terror groups in Xinjiang.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said this showed Uyghur activists were given a “free pass” in Australia because they criticised China.
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“It exposed the separatist, terrorist and extremist nature of (the) Xinjiang independence organisation in Australia and the despicable collusion of anti-China Australian politicians with terrorist organisations for selfish gains,” he said.
“As some Western media are awash with lies and smears targeting Xinjiang, such objective and rational voices shows that justice will eventually prevail.”
The article singled out assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie and independent Senator Rex Patrick for supporting the ETAA.
Senator Patrick said it was “particularly telling” Chinese media had quoted misinformation from the ACP.
“Strange bedfellows at first glance, but not so strange when you think about it,” he said.
The ETAA refers to Xinjiang as ‘East Turkistan’ in a move that has angered China.
Senator Patrick stressed he had been careful not to follow suit because it is “not immediately helpful” in stopping the abuse of Uyghurs.
“The focus of my attention has been to support those members of the Uyghur community in Adelaide and across Australia whose families are suffering the Chinese Communist Party directed genocide and oppression in Xinjiang,” he said.
The ETAA website declares Uyghurs are “currently under the brutal occupation of the Chinese Communist Government” in Xinjiang.
It calls for Australia to follow its Five Eyes allies in declaring a genocide is underway in Xinjiang.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has resisted going that far, but said in March there were “credible reports of the systematic abuse and torture” of Uyghur women in the region.
Beijing claims it is curbing a terrorist insurgency and Mr Weng warned Australia could be “burned” if it continued to support Uyghur groups.
“We urge certain Australian politicians not to stand on the wrong side of history and to stop endorsing anti-China separatist activities and terrorist organisations to avoid getting burned itself,” he said.
NCA NewsWire has reached out to the ETAA for comment.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra invited Australian journalists to an extraordinary two-hour press conference in April, where officials denied widespread reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.
In a video titled ‘Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land’, Uyghurs were filmed denying they had been persecuted in the region.
It comes a week after Defence Minister Peter Dutton warned a conflict over Taiwan could not be discounted, and Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo claimed the “drums of war” were beating in the region.