Media Release – for immediate release 17 June 2024

Media contacts:

Dr Zoe Bedford, Australia Tibet Council 0408 262 576
Tsewang Thupten, Tibetan Community Spokesperson 0423 932 495

3 Questions for Foreign Minister Penny Wong from Tibetans

Tibetans will be protesting around Australia in Adelaide, Canberra and Perth to say to the Australian Government.

When: 17 June, 8am onwards, Parliament House Lawns, Canberra

The Tibetan Community Association and Australia Tibet Council have 3 questions we would like answered by Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong about the visit of Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Question 1: Why won’t the Foreign Minister issue Magnitsky Sanctions to Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for human rights violations?

The USA has sanctioned several CCP officials such as Wu Yingjie (Wu), Zhang Hongbo (Zhang), Chen Quanguo (Chen) and Zhu Hailun (Zhu) for their human rights abuses against Tibetans and Uyghurs. Their human rights crimes include extrajudicial killings, physical abuse, arbitrary arrests, and mass detentions in Tibet. As well as forced sterilisation, coerced abortion, restrictions on religious and political freedoms, and the torture of prisoners. These are grievous human rights abuses, and yet the Australian Government is allowing the Chinese Government to commit these crimes with impunity.

The USA has also issued visa bans for CCP Officials relating to the Chinese Government-run Colonial Boarding schools, which have resulted in the separation of 1 Million Tibetan Children from their families into State-run institutions. The Officials were found to be responsible for this policy of forcible assimilation designed to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has applied Magnitsky-style sanctions against 13 individuals and three entities from Russia and Iran, and yet none to any Chinese Communist Party official responsible for human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong or in East Turkistan, home of Uyghurs.

Magnitsky sanctions are designed to target individuals accused of gross human rights abuses by means of asset freezes and travel bans. Currently, the Chinese Communist Party can arrest and torture Tibetans with impunity. Magnitsky-style sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials are one of the few tools Australia have that could deter officials from their brutality towards Tibetans and punish their abuses of Tibetan human rights.

Why won’t the Foreign Minister use our Magnitsky Sanctions Act, and place Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese Government human rights abusers?

Question 2: How can the Foreign Minister ensure that this visit to Australia of Chinese Premier Li Qiang will assist Tibetans currently suffering human rights abuses under the occupation of China?

In February 2024, over 1,000 Tibetans in Dege County protested the planned development by the Chinese Government of a hydro dam. This new dam would flood their village and destroy two monasteries, each with centuries-old Buddhist murals. The destruction of Tibetan Buddhism the attacks on Tibetan culture and way of life are a constant staple of the occupation of Tibet. Tibetans from Dege stood up to China and engaged in peaceful protest for days to try to protect their town and monasteries, and once again were arrested by Chinese authorities for simply raising their voices and protesting the Chinese Communist Party. Over 1,000 Tibetans were arrested, including Tibetan Buddhist monks. Once again, the Chinese Communist Party has been allowed by the world to crush the human rights of Tibetans with impunity. This activity is commonplace in Tibet, under China’s occupation. The US State Department estimates that there are currently up to 2000 Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet- arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for speaking out against China.

The Australian government should not let China set the agenda for the Australia-China relationship – the Foreign Minister needs to remember the words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” There is no room for neutrality – by prioritising trade over Tibet and human rights, the Foreign Minister is allowing Australia to fall on the wrong side of history.

Currently, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister are falling into the soft “Panda diplomacy’ trap and allowing China to dictate the terms of the Australia-China relationship. Will the Foreign Minister sacrifice Tibetan’s freedom, rights and lives to the altar of commerce and trade?

Question 3: Will the Foreign Minister bow to China’s agenda and allow Australia to be complicit in the oppression of Tibetans – or will the Foreign Minister take action for Tibetans and Human Rights?

Over 50 years of diplomatic engagement between Australia and China has seen both countries become richer through trade – at the expense of Tibetans and others oppressed by the Chinese Government. If Australia allows the Chinese Government to occupy, oppress and continually abuse Tibetan human rights with impunity, then Australia is complicit in the oppression of Tibetans.

Modern China, under the Chinese Communist Party, is only 75 years old; in fact, the Dalai Lama is older than the Modern Chinese state, as he was 15 years old when China invaded Tibet in 1950. There is no doubt that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan spirit will outlive the Chinese Communist Party, as Tibetans have been unflinching in resisting China’s occupation. In contrast, authoritarian and communist regimes are doomed to fail.

Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Wong should not allow China to set the agenda for discussions during Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s visit to Australia this week by removing Tibet and human rights accountability from the table.
If the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister wish the Australian public to believe they are committed to human rights, then they need to hold China to account for their crimes in Tibet.

So say to the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister: Do Not Let China Silence You! Stand up for Tibet!


Any part of this media release is quotable and attributable to Dr Zoe Bedford, executive office for the Australia Tibet Council.

For further comment, please contact:

Dr Zoe Bedford, Australia Tibet Council 0408 262 576
Tsewang Thupten, Tibetan Community Spokesperson 0423 932 495