ACT News


Envoy takes parting shot

CHINA'S ambassador to Australia, Chen Yuming, says protesters outside the embassy continue to cause disruption and annoy Chinese tourists, despite having been a regular fixture outside the Yarralumla complex for several years.

Mr Chen will finish his diplomatic posting in Canberra within weeks after three years in the job.

The self-described good friend of Kevin Rudd is not yet sure who his replacement will be, but whoever it is will need to be able to live with the constant presence of protesters at the front gates. A cluster of Falun Gong protesters seems to be always camped outside the Chinese embassy, much to the chagrin of the top envoy inside who acts as Australia's closest link to a $125 billion a year trading partner.

''We oppose their behaviour of disrupting the daily work at the embassy,'' he said.

''Chinese tourists have also lodged complaints with the embassy [about the protesters].

''Sometimes they use megaphones to put forward their ideas. Sometimes they have intercepted tourists on their way to the embassy.''


Canberrans are familiar with the sight of the unrelenting agitators who hold up signs alleging serious human rights abuses in China, such as organ harvesting from live members of the Falun Gong.

The embassy, a short downhill stroll from Parliament House, will be replaced by a new embassy expected to be finished by early 2014.

Mr Chen said human rights are being increasingly protected in Chinese courts and made the point China's media was vast and diverse enough to promote free speech.

At regular Australia-China meetings on human rights, he said China had made its own observations about issues in Australia.

He made what is believed to be a reference to the case involving News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt, who was sued after publishing a column claimed to be racist.

''We should respect the legitimate rights of people to express their views,'' Mr Chen said.

He would like to see the federal government encourage more Australian tourists and students spending time in China to mirror the boom of Chinese travelling here.

Last year 620,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia and this was expected to reach 680,000 this year.

On top of that there are 160,000 students studying here.

''The last three years in Australia for me have been unforgettable,'' he said.

''There has been a leapfrog in bilateral co-operation. The trade volume has increased nearly 60 per cent in that time.''

Despite the fact the Free Trade Agreement between China and Australia had not been signed after eight years of negotiations, he said there was hope.