Federal MPs rally behind Hong Kong protests in push back against China

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Federal politicians are rallying behind protesters on the streets of Hong Kong by forming a new friendship group that will speak up for autonomy in the territory in the face of strong Chinese control.

Hong Kong police have arrested hundreds of protesters, including pro-democracy leaders and some lawmakers, over three months of violent demonstrations which have forced the withdrawal of new laws that would have given authorities the formal power to extradite people to mainland China.

Pro-democracy activists have vowed to continue their protests, claiming the bill’s withdrawal was “too little, too late”.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching and Victorian Liberal MP Kevin Andrews intend to establish the Parliamentary Friends of Democratic Hong Kong group, calling for the protection of democracy in Hong Kong and promoting a peaceful end to the violence.

“The ALP has always championed human rights and the rule of law is an important precept in democratic countries,” Senator Kitching told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“We hope there can be a peaceful resolution to the situation in Hong Kong and this parliamentary friendship group supports that aim.”

Senator Kimberley Kitching and Liberal MP Kevin Andrews intend to establish the group, calling for the protection of democracy in Hong Kong.
Senator Kimberley Kitching and Liberal MP Kevin Andrews intend to establish the group, calling for the protection of democracy in Hong Kong.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

The group will reinforce support for the “one country, two systems” model that was central to the 1997 handover agreement between Britain and China.

It will also advocate that any resolution should reflect the democratic values that Hong Kong‘s citizens have “come to cherish” and respect the unique history of the territory.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has issued an urgent call for restraint by authorities in Hong Kong amid fears that violence in the Chinese-ruled city could escalate.

She said at the weekend Australia was “very concerned” by developments in Hong Kong and urged the government to “to listen to the legitimate concerns of its people”.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale last week called on the Morrison government to offer permanent shelter to an estimated 18,839 Hong Kong residents in Australia including students, tourists and workers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the call was “premature”, as he called on the Chinese government to show restraint with protesters.

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick on Monday criticised both the government and federal Labor’s refusal to to support a Senate inquiry on Australia‘s relations with China as a “sad act of political cowardice”.

“Labor’s claimed commitment to bipartisanship looks a lot like a political party that’s running scared,” Senator Patrick said.

“In Labor’s view China is so sensitive an issue that it can only be discussed behind closed doors, and certainly not in earshot of the Australian public.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has called for a “detailed and comprehensive” briefing for all parliamentarians on Australia‘s relationship with China.

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