China’s Belt and Road Initiative a threat we must awaken to

Originally published in The Examiner 2nd June 2020 (Available here)

The insidious tentacles of the Communist Chinese dictatorship need to be reined in. And quickly.

The world has witnessed and experienced the ugliness and reach of the dictatorship with the devastation of COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands killed. Millions of livelihoods destroyed. All the while it ensured the World Health Organisation was its ventriloquist doll – run by a Marxist from Ethiopia whom it helped get appointed.

The denials, belligerence and obfuscation by the dictatorship’s ambassador in Australia were yet another display of the ugliness.

Five days ago Beijing unilaterally passed draconian oppressive rules against the people of Hong Kong through the so-called National Security Act in direct breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This fundamental breach of the Declaration calls into question the regime’s commitment to stand by any agreement it has signed. The heavily armed crackdown and arrest of people (including children) protesting these draconian laws should send a shiver down the spine of freedom-loving people throughout the world.

And in the mix is the dictatorship’s approach to our barley and meat – slapped with a huge tariff after Australia had the “audacity” to ask for an independent enquiry into COVID-19. Their bully tactics unashamedly put on display for all to see and observe. Stand up to the dictatorship and there will be consequences.
All this is part of a disturbing trend that aims to suppress freedom and exert control over other nations.

The conversion of the South China Sea Islands into a massive and aggressive military base is yet another blatant example of the regime’s disregard for international law and sensitivities of other nations.

Its human rights record toward its people is just as reprehensible. Ask the Christians, the Uighurs, the Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama or any dissident. Not to mention the forced human organ transplants from prisoners of conscience. A matter on which the China Tribunal under Sir Geoffrey Nice QC recently made some damning findings.

The best, indeed only, way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them. The longer you leave it the harder it becomes because they become emboldened by each unchallenged act of aggression.

The bullying is so much more difficult to counter when mixed with charm and largesse. China’s outreach program, along with its Belt and Road Initiative, has seen numerous nations ensnared by indebtedness to the regime. They wake up when it’s too late, like Sri Lanka with its port.

How did all this come to pass? Too many believed that with China’s emergence from isolation and its economic liberalisation there would follow personal and democratic reforms as well. For a while, this was the case and many (including myself) were lured into a too trusting attitude toward the regime.

Some of us woke up earlier than others. Former Minister Senator Fierravanti-Wells (responsible for Pacific Island affairs) called out China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its provision of loans that severely compromised the independence of the Pacific Islands. At the time she was repudiated by her senior Minister Julie Bishop.
Similarly, I recall telling the Party Room in Canberra I would cross the floor if an extradition treaty with China (as advocated by then Prime Minister Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop) was to proceed. Similar repudiation and retribution followed. Our views are now mainstream.

In the face of all this overwhelming evidence, how can Labor in Victoria sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative, the details of which are hidden from the public and flies in the face of our national interest?

Freedom is fundamental. Advocates for freedom cannot sit idly by as a dictatorship breaches not only widely accepted standards but repudiates its own written agreements. Only a multi-lateral approach can rein in such a rogue regime. It was done with the Soviet Union. It can be done again.

We need freedom-loving countries and even some of the not so freedom-loving ones to unite to rein in the ugly repressive Marxist regime under which the Chinese people suffer. There is no time to waste.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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