By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, June 24: Former Tibetan parliamentarian Kyinzom Dhongdue, student activist Drew Pavlou and other protestors disrupted the Chinese ambassador Xiao Qian’s speech at an event in University of Technology Sydney in Australia on Friday. The coordinated protesters called out the Chinese envoy on his country’s poor record on human rights in Tibet, East Turkistan and Hong Kong.
Dhongdue carried a placard that read, “Free Tibet, Free East Turkestan, Free Hong Kong” as she shouted the same slogans while being ushered out of the hall by security personnel.
“This is the representative of a dictatorship with one million Muslims in concentration camps. Uyghur Muslims are being raped and tortured as we speak. [It is the same dictatorship] that commits genocide against Tibetans,” vocal Australian activist Drew Pavlou shouted. Another protestor shouted, “This is disgraceful! How about freedom of speech in China?” as he walked out of the room.
Both Kyinzom Dhongdue and Drew Pavlou are founders and members of a new political party in Australia, the Democratic Alliance. Dhongdue and Pavlou both ran for Senate but did not to win enough votes for office.
As a snide remark in response, Xiao said that it was his pleasure to address the event “although there are different views” which “should be expressed in a way that is appropriate”. He went on to say that the audience members “should respect the law and order” and “keep quiet while we’re speaking”.
China’s ambassador to Australia, however, said that there is “no such thing as absolute freedom” as he defended his country’s human rights violations. As he was facing repeated interruptions from activists, the envoy also said both the countries, China and Australia, should respect each other’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The diplomatic suspension between the Canberra and Beijing governments started during the pandemic when PM Scott Morrison called for the initial international investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in 2020. The Chinese government was outraged due to the probe, which eventually led to the trade barriers being enforced on Australian imports, including meat, wine and coal.