/ 18 June 2024

Protests and promises

Li Qiang

The Squiz 

Day 3 of Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s tour of Oz saw him receive another mixed reception in Canberra yesterday. It began with people protesting against China’s alleged human rights violations outside Parliament House, some of whom clashed with pro-China supporters. And it concluded with allegations that Chinese officials blocked the view of Cheng Lei – the Aussie journalist imprisoned by China for 3 years – at a press conference. But away from the public commotion, there were also plenty of political discussions happening behind closed doors.

Tell me more…

After Li signed the official visitor’s book, the pair got down to business. As for what agreements were made… They include education/research, climate change, trade, 15-day visa-free travel for Aussies going to China, and “stepping up communication and dialogue” on Pacific development. Albanese also raised Aussie writer Yang Hengjun, who’s facing a suspended death sentence in China, and he “reiterated” Australia’s opposition to capital punishment. The pair also confirmed they spoke about the need for better “military-to-military communication” to avoid the repeat of recent incidents. Coalition leader Peter Dutton also met privately with Li, saying “to be good friends, you need to have an honest relationship” where both can raise “concerns”. 

Sounds like a lot of business…

Yep, but not all – Albanese also hosted a state lunch for 300 people in the Great Hall where he, Li and the guests enjoyed Aussie beef, regional produce and Canberra wines. It opened with a bit of a faux pas, with Albanese referring to Li as Li Keqiang – his predecessor. But that was quickly glossed over as the Royal Military College Band played the national anthems and the Canberra String Quartet provided the entertainment. And the visit’s not over… Albanese and Li are off to Perth tomorrow, where our critical minerals industry will be a hot topic. Our government wants to become a dominant player in the industry as part of its Future Made in Australia package and experts say there could be some new deals involving Chinese investment on the cards. Watch this space…

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