The emergence of new satellite imagery last month revealed the Chinese government has been expanding its detention centres in the western region of Xinjiang, despite Beijing’s claims that all detainees have “graduated” from the “re-education camps”.
It is believed China has forced more than 1 million Uighurs – a Turkic-speaking ethnic group of mostly Sunni Muslims – into grounds that resemble internment camps in the region.
After meeting with senior Australian Muslim leaders on Monday, AFIC president Dr Rateb Jneid said it was important to provide backing for Mr Hastie.
“Mr Hastie has publicly raised the issue of human rights in the People’s Republic of China on several occasions, it is important for AFIC to show Mr Hastie support particularly as China has applied pressure on him for criticising its flagrant human rights abuses,” he said.
AFIC vice president Zouber Sayed said Mr Hastie was a “champion of a proud Australian tradition of calling out the bully”.
Mr Hastie said Australians from all backgrounds “condemn the persecution happening to the Uighur people”.
“Anyone who cherishes the dignity of human life— as Dr Jneid and I both do — is deeply troubled by what is happening to them. I will continue to speak up for the Uighur people,” he said.
“I thank AFIC President Dr Jneid and his colleagues President Yahaya and Vice President Sayed for meeting with me to discuss this important issue.”
Abdul Rahman Yahaya, president of the Islamic Council of WA, said the meeting with Mr Hastie “was very productive” and “it is time more of our fellow Australians become aware of human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities in East Turkistan”.
East Turkistan, which bordered China and Mongolia, was annexed by China in 1949.
In a statement, AFIC said Uighers have since suffered “immense persecution at the hands of Chinese authorities culminating in reports of mass incarceration in concentration camps, rapes, disappearances, cultural and religious repression, torture, organ harvesting, destruction of places of worship, forced labour and killings”.
“AFIC encourages all Australians to stand with and support Mr Hastie and to call on other political representatives to do the same,” the peak Muslim group said.
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.