Herald Sun, 23 March 2017
A 19-gun welcome salute for Chinese premier Li Keqiang was fired over the heads of both protesters and supporters at Parliament House.
Tibetan, East Turkestan and Falun Gong groups protesting China’s alleged human rights abuses assembled on the parliamentary lawn in Canberra, separated by barriers from Chinese supporters.
“I don’t think Australia should compromise on our values,” ACT Tibetan Community president Sonam Choedon said.
“Being an Australian myself, I really would like our government to speak out for human rights in Tibet and China.’
Photos of the Tibetan’s leader in exile, the Dalai Lama are banned in Tibet, as is displaying the national flag – a jailable offence.
In March a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer set himself on fire in eastern Tibet. The ACT Tibetan Community claims he is the 146th Tibetan to self-immolate since 2009.
“These acts of self-immolation are not something you do easily or to get attention – it’s out of desperation,” Ms Choedon said.
Nurmuhammad Majid, president of the East Turkestan Australian Association, said his group’s 50 protesters had travelled overnight from Sydney and Adelaide to be here.
“[China has] taken our lands, taken our resources and not given us our rights to practice our religion, to practice our culture to enjoy our linguistic rights, civil rights and political rights in our homelands,” he said.
East Turkestan is a contested separatist political term used by ethnic Uyghurs living in China’s western provinces.
“Our homeland has been occupied by the Chinese government since 1949,” Mr Majid said.
“Tibet was occupied in 1951. Since then the Chinese government has implemented a crackdown on policies, ethnic persecution, religious persecution in these two regions.”
Across the barriers, several hundred Chinese students wearing red shirts and with large Chinese flags had turned out to welcome the premier.
Ping Lu, president of the Chinese Student Scholar Association,said they had received support from the Chinese embassy in Australia.
“They support us with the flags and they support us with breakfast and lunch, but it’s a student event,” she said.
Jack Wang also from the CSSA is a finance student at ANU who has been living in Australia for 10 years.
“I call myself a cultural ambassador between the Chinese and Australian cultures. I’m not only representing the Chinese culture but when I go back to China I represent the Australian culture as well.”