China Urges Australian Lawmakers to ‘Repent’ Over Past Criticism

Michael Heath

(Bloomberg) -- China’s embassy called on two Australian lawmakers who have been vocal critics of the government in Beijing to “genuinely repent” and demonstrate greater respect after blocking the pair from visiting the country.

Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, members of Australia’s ruling coalition, were due to participate in a study tour next month arranged by China Matters, a think tank in Australia. China’s decision apparently reflects their “frankness about the Chinese Communist Party,” the two said in a joint statement.

China’s embassy in Australia released a strident response.

“The Chinese people do not welcome those who make unwarranted attacks, wantonly exert pressure on China, challenge China’s sovereignty, disrespect China’s dignity and undermine mutual trust between China and Australia,” it said in a statement late Saturday. “The colonial days of Western powers are long gone. China will never yield to colonization of ideas and values.”

Australia is increasingly concerned China’s influence is spreading beyond the South China Sea to the Pacific Islands, a region traditionally dominated by Australia and the U.S.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has tried to repair the relationship with China, his nation’s key trading partner, after last year banning Huawei Technologies Co. from bidding for 5G contracts and the introduction of anti-foreign interference laws aimed at Beijing.

Nazi Comparison

Hastie, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and a former special forces officer who served in Afghanistan, has been an outspoken critic of China and its growing influence. In August, he compared the west’s approach to China to what he called the “catastrophic” failure to hold back Nazi Germany, earning a rebuke from Beijing.

“As long as the people concerned genuinely repent and redress their mistakes, view China with objectivity and reason, respect China’s system and mode of development chosen by the Chinese people, the door of dialogue and exchanges will always remain open,” the embassy said.

China Matters postponed the study tour to Beijing after the two lawmakers were blocked and blamed media attention surrounding the announcement of their proposed visit for the problems.

Hastie and Paterson, in their statement, said they “look forward to a time when the Chinese government realizes it has nothing to fear from honest discussion and the free exchange of ideas.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net, Linus Chua, Tony Czuczka

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