Asia Pacific

China blocks critical Australian intelligence chairman

AFP-JIJI

Australia’s parliamentary intelligence committee head, who has previously criticized Beijing, said he had been blocked from entering China due to his “frankness about the Chinese Communist Party.”

Andrew Hastie warned several months ago that the world’s approach to containing China’s rise resembles the “catastrophic failure” to prevent the advance of Nazi Germany.

He said Australia’s sovereignty and freedoms could be threatened by Beijing — much as France lost its territory to Germany at the beginning of World War II.

Hastie, along with fellow government politician James Paterson, had planned to travel to China for a study tour next month but both have been banned from entering the country.

“We regret the decision of the government of the People’s Republic of China … that at this time Mr. Hastie and Sen. Paterson are not welcome on a China Matters study tour to Beijing,” tour organizer China Matters said late Friday.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald in August, Hastie wrote that Australia, like France during the war, has “failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbor has become.”

He said the next decade of relations with China would test Australia’s democratic values.

The Chinese Embassy in Australia at the time slammed Hastie’s comments as “Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”

Hastie and Paterson on Friday said they had “looked forward” to learning from Chinese people about history and culture and were “disappointed” the tour was no longer going ahead.

“We are particularly disappointed that the apparent reason we are not welcome in China is this time is our frankness about the Chinese Communist Party,” the pair said in a joint statement.

“Despite this, we will always speak out in defense of Australia’s values, sovereignty and national interest.

“We look forward to a time when the Chinese government realizes it has nothing to fear from honest discussion and the free exchange of ideas.”

The pair have also spoken out on issues including Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs and tensions in Hong Kong.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said the views of Hastie did not represent the views of the government.

Though Canberra has long worked to avoid angering Beijing, the relationship has become strained by recent clashes over human rights and Australia’s decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network due to security fears.