Defence Minister Peter Dutton has vowed to continue to call out Chinese aggression and human rights violations, as the country’s new ambassador landed in Sydney.
Ambassador Xiao Qian arrived on Australia Day and said the China-Australia relationship was at a “critical juncture”, facing difficulties and challenges as well as opportunity and potential.
“As long as both sides adhere to the principles of mutual respect, equality, inclusiveness and mutual learning and firmly grasp the right direction of the development, the China-Australia relations will keep moving forward,” he said.
But while Mr Dutton welcomed the new ambassador, he stood his ground on Chinese criticisms, saying its belligerent approach in the Indo-Pacific region was unacceptable.
“We want a good, strong friendly relationship with China but at the moment China is in conflict,” he told radio station 2GB on Thursday.
“Not just with us where they’re cutting off markets and the cyber attacks, but with the Philippines, they’re at loggerheads with the Indians, the Vietnamese, with many many other countries.”
Mr Dutton said not shedding light on human rights abuses such as Beijing’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs and tennis star Peng Shuai would make Australia appear weak.
“If we remain silent, we remain weak. If we block our ears and pretend it’s going to go away, the problem will only just compound,” he said.
“I hope the new appointment is sincere in what he says but we need to talk about human rights issues.”