China’s ambassador to Australia held a rare press conference Thursday to defend his government against charges of human rights abuses, espionage and political meddling which have frayed relations between the major trade partners.
Cheng Jingye held a rare press conference at Beijing’s embassy in Canberra where he rejected reports that China has detained more than a million mostly Muslim Uighurs in northwest Xinjiang region as “utterly fake news”.
He also denied recent allegations from current and former security officials that China has been involved in a vast campaign of espionage and political influence in Australia, saying such charges were “not well-founded”.
Australia is reliant on China for trade, by far its biggest market for critical resource and commodities exports. Cheng pushed back on international charges that China has detained more than a million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in reeducation camps in a drive to erase their culture. “Uighurs in detention is utterly fake news,” he said, echoing Beijing’s claims the facilities are vocational training schools that have breathed economic life into the poor far-west region. He said any arrests that have been made were aimed at countering extremism.
“It’s nothing to do with human rights, nothing to do with religion. It’s about fighting terrorism and taking preventive actions,” he said.