Gillian Bird Eludes China’s Criticism over Asylum Seekers
By Athena Yenko | February 21, 2014 1:08 PM EST
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Gillian Bird eluded China's vice-minister of foreign affairs, Li Baodong's, criticism over the country's controversial asylum seeker policy.
In the middle of tirades and probing questions about Australia's boat policy, Ms Bird chose to stick on what was written on her speech. She was very guarded as she told people that she is "very happy to respond on Australian policies and to explain and answer any questions that the Chinese side had."
In previous Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue, the two countries have unwritten pact that criticisms between each country should be aired out in close-door meeting between the delegations to avoid offending each other.
But for the 15th Human Rights Dialogue held in Beijing for 2014, Australia suffered the disgrace of being criticised in public.
Mr Li was vocal about his concern about Australia's asylum seeker policy, especially about the children who arrive in Australia through boats.
"Indeed, we have proposed this question very candidly and also stated our concerns. We also asked if these refugees will be illegally repatriated to other countries," Mr Li said during a press conference.
It was to be noted that Mr Li reports to Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi. Mr Wang became controversial because of his public denigration to Julie Bishop in 2013 when it was Australia which criticised China's decision to declare an air defence zone over disputed waters in the East China Sea.
Mr Li, on the other hand, also chose to be elusive when reporters grilled him about China's maltreatment of political activists in the likes of Xu Zhiyong and Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti.
Mr Li briefly told reporter that he already gave "explanations and clarifications to the Australian side".
China had suffered global condemnation about its arrests of political activists as how Australia had been suffering global reproach about its asylum seeker policy.
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