Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has ruled out ever apologising to the Chinese government after Beijing called on him to “repent” if he ever wanted to visit the country.
Mr Hastie was planning to travel to China in December alongside Liberal Party colleague James Paterson and Labor MP Matt Keogh for a study trip, but the Liberal politicians were informed on Friday their visa had been denied.
Both Mr Hastie and Senator Paterson have been critical of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang province, the unrest in Hong Kong and its alleged attempts to exert influence in Australia.
“Let me be very clear, we will not repent for standing up for Australian sovereignty, our values, our interests and for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Mr Hastie told reporters on Sunday, adding he was “disappointed”, but “not surprised” by the decision.
“The [Chinese government] want a one-way conversation. I believe very strongly in democracy, as does James, and we believe in the exchange of ideas and that was what the whole trip was about – so they need to come to the party, too.”
On Saturday, A Chinese Embassy spokesperson said the country would not “yield to colonisation of ideas and values” and called on the Liberal politicians to “genuinely repent and redress their mistakes”.
Earlier this year, Mr Hastie, who is the chair of federal parliament’s security and intelligence committee, came under fire for likening the global response to China’s rise in power to the world’s underestimation of Nazi Germany.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Australia at the time “strongly deplored” the comments and warned they would prove “detrimental to China-Australian relations”.
In an earlier joint statement, Mr Hastie and Senator Paterson said they were “particularly disappointed” it appeared the reason their visas were rejected was due to their “frankness about the Chinese Communist Party”.
“It appears to be [China is] not willing to have a dialogue with people who have been publicly critical of them. That’s a shame,” Senator Paterson told SBS News on Saturday.
The study trip, organised by Australian policy institute China Matters, has been “postponed”.
Mr Hastie said he was open to traveling to China in the new year, but admitted it was unlikely he would be welcome.
“I’m always open to China. I am really looking forward to meeting Chinese people, learning more about their culture and history. It’s disappointing that this trip has been canceled, but that’s life,” he said.
“I suspect that unless I repent, I won’t be welcome.”
A recent New York Times investigation, based on 400 pages of leaked Chinese Communist Party documents, revealed the internal justifications used by the government to imprison more than a million ethnic Muslims throughout the country’s Xinjiang region.
In the documents, Chinese government officials are reportedly recorded ordering the mass detention in response to what they see as the threat of extremist violence.
“The New York Times report is most troubling because it reveals exactly what the regime is thinking on the inside,” Mr Hastie said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was aware of the report and reiterated Australia’s concern about the situation.
“We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other groups,” she said in a statement to SBS News on Sunday.
“We have raised these concerns – and we will continue to raise them both bilaterally and in relevant international meetings.”
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said China’s government needs to be transparent about its actions.
“We would urge China to respond to this report transparently and swiftly,” she said.
“We continue to join with the Australian government and with other nations, as is outlined in the Human Rights Council statement, which calls on China to uphold its international obligations in relation to human rights to end arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement.”