Australia: Australia's Senate Passes Resolution Opposing Article 23, Chinese Embassy's Attempts to Interfere Fail

On August 21, the Australian Senate passed a resolution opposing Hong Kong's proposed Article 23 legislation. Because of the Chinese Embassy's active effort to stop these senators from passing the resolution during the discussion period, the final passing of this resolution caused a stir in Australia's mainstream society and Chinese community. One of the senators expressed that she is glad that Australia has joined governments around the world in showing concern over Article 23.

This Is the First Time that Australia Has Issued a Formal Resolution about Article 23

After two days of discussion, on the afternoon of August 21st, the Australian senate passed a resolution opposing Article 23. This is the first time the Australian government has issued a formal resolution about Article 23. The main contents of the resolution are as follows:

1. Expressing concern that the Hong Kong National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill can violate the people of Hong Kong's freedom and rights.

2. Urging the Chinese government to follow the agreement with Britain that it signed in 1984, which stated that the people of Hong Kong would have unchanged rights and freedoms for 50 years beginning on July 1st, 1997.

3. Reiterating that the Australian government supports the above agreement.

4. Welcoming the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government's improvements on Article 23 issued on June 3, and July 5, 2003, but stating that further improvements and clarifications are needed, so that the public will be clear on how related legislations would be applied once they are implemented.

5. Hoping that the Hong Kong Legislative Council and government keep the promises made by the People's Republic of China about its policy and its implications.

6. With regard to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government's decision on delaying the implementation of this legislation in order to survey more people's opinions, the Australian government is urging Hong Kong's government not use this legislation to decrease individual citizens' rights and freedoms, because these rights and freedoms are the basic foundation of the democratic process.

This resolution was sponsored by several Senators, including the Public Speaker of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha S. Despoja, in order to express concern over the possible harm Article 23 could cause to the people of Hong Kong's human rights and freedom. Before this resolution, the Secretary for the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed concern that Article 23 may violate citizens' freedoms. This was said in a statement about the Hong Kong National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill last month.

Chinese Embassy Writes Letters to Try to Stop the Resolution

Before the resolution passed, the Chinese Embassy wrote letters to the senators in order to try to stop it from being passed. A letter signed by Ambassador Feng Tie to Senator Despoja dated on August 20 said that the Chinese government feels that the people of Hong Kong are enjoying even more democracy and freedom than before. He claimed that all compatriots who love Hong Kong and China will support the Special Administrative Region's Government's implementation of this legislation, which has been led by Tung Chee-hwa (Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region). The letter also mentioned that the discussion of this legislation is China's internal affair, and hopes that Australia denies the resolution in order to secure the development of China-Australia relations. The letter also mentioned that the Chinese government has higher expectations from Australia than other countries.

When passing this letter on to the Chinese media, Senator Despoja said that all of the senators received this letter.

Glad to Join Governments around the World

The Australian Democrats issued a statement through the media when the resolution was passed, showing their concern, "There were more than half a million Hong Kong citizens from all walks of life who joined in the July 1st Opposing Article 23 Grand Parade. Hence, Australia is worried that this legislation will be used to suppress or threaten freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom of press." The statement also pointed out that Australia noticed that this legislation may break China's promise of a "one country, two systems" policy, which is the key to enabling the Hong Kong people to have freedom 50 years after sovereignty went back to Mainland China in 1997.

"The United States, Europe, Canada and New Zealand have all raised their concerns about this legislation," Despoja said, "I am very glad that the Australian Senate could join these governments from all over the world and express our attitude."

You are welcome to print and circulate all articles published on Clearharmony and their content, but please quote the source.