Human Rights – deportation of Chinese National

Senator BARTLETT (2.32 p.m.)—My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Can the minister confirm that the government has been endeavouring to immediately deport a Chinese man back to the People’s Republic of China, despite the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Committee have requested that deportation not occur until they have completed an investigation into this case? Is it the case that this man is today in a Sydney hospital following a serious attempt at self-harm? Can the minister also confirm if this person’s Australian visa was cancelled as the result of an arrest warrant from Chinese authorities, and is the Australian government absolutely confident that this arrest warrant is genuine? Can the minister indicate if it is true that this Chinese man in question is Christian and has a family from a Christian background? Is the Australian government confident that religious persecution has ceased in China, and that there is no prospect of the man being persecuted if he is returned to that country?

Answer
Senator ELLISON—I can confirm that there is a Chinese national in custody, and I note that Senator Bartlett has not identified him, so I will proceed on that basis. A Chinese national has been in custody since 2004, and that is as a result of his visa not being granted, and, as he has no lawful reason to stay in Australia, he will be deported. I should say at the outset that I understand he has had the opportunity of having his situation reviewed. There was a last minute request from the UNHCR—it was an interim measures request—asking that he not be removed and that is being considered. The department deferred those removal arrangements for that to be dealt with. It provided no new information and, as a result of that, the plan is to deport this Chinese national today, subject to a medical assessment of his situation. This person has been in custody since February 2004. There were a number of issues to be considered during that time and various avenues that this person had pursued by way of appeal. Also, there has been an arrest warrant in China for some time for this person for very serious charges relating to alleged kidnap and murder.

Of course, the death penalty is an issue between the two countries of China and Australia and a period of time has been taken up in obtaining the necessary undertaking from the Chinese authorities that, on return of this person, if there was a conviction, the death penalty would not be carried out. That has now been obtained. That accounts for the effluxion of time for this person being in detention. There has been adequate opportunity for him to canvass his position. This has been exhaustively reviewed under Australia’s international obligations under the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I am advised that the issue of this person’s religious beliefs is not a factor in this case.

Question
Senator BARTLETT (2.36 p.m.)—I ask a supplementary question, Mr President, and thank the minister for that answer. Can the minister clarify whether there is still an investigation underway by the United Nations committee, or is it the case that the government has simply acknowledged that but is choosing to act to deport this person anyway, despite the fact that the investigation has not concluded? And is that not a departure from what is normal practice in regard to immigration deportations? Given the minister’s comments on discussions with the Chinese authorities about sending this person back in regard to particular charges, can the minister indicate whether this process has followed the normal level of independent assessment that would apply with an extradition matter, with all of the safeguards in place, or is this basically being done solely at a government-to-government level?

Answer
Senator ELLISON—I will reiterate that the department deferred removal arrangements while the interim measures request was considered; it provided no new information beyond that which had been extensively examined; and the action to deport this person is consistent with the government’s policy on dealing with United Nations commission requests for the removal of unsuccessful asylum seekers—and that was announced in the year 2000. I do believe, and I will check this to make sure that it is right, that the Australian government has written to the UNHCR indicating its knowledge of this request, providing information on the extensive process undergone in Australia to consider this gentleman’s claims and inviting any views or considerations which the UNHCR might want to offer. But the government believes that its actions are consistent with the policy it announced in 2000 and that there has been, over the period since 2004, adequate opportunity for independent assessment of this person’s situation.

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
Human Rights
Speech
Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (3.27 p.m.)—I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by Senator Ellison in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to my question without notice asked today.

My question went to a single, individual case. Most of the time in question time there are questions about broader policy issues or questions with a broader sweep, rather than questions about an individual case. But the individual case in question is one that is concerning, both because of the specific individual circumstances and because of the wider situation and reality that it goes to. The question relates to a Chinese national, a man who has been in detention in Australia for some time since his visa was cancelled. The visa was cancelled as the result of an arrest warrant provided by Chinese authorities.

There are a couple of aspects of this that are concerning. The most overarching concern that the Democrats have is that the United Nations Human Rights Committee is investigating this person’s case. That is a process that is open to anybody in any country where that country is a signatory to and has ratified the human rights convention, as Australia has, and other relevant human rights conventions. It is therefore completely appropriate and reasonable for people who have concerns to seek to have their case examined by the human rights committee at an international level.

It is a matter of great concern to the Democrats that the federal government is still adopting an approach which basically means that the immigration minister is prepared to ignore the fact that a case is still being examined by a human rights committee and will remove a person from the country to a potentially dangerous situation regardless. This should be a concern because the Australian government has spent many millions of dollars on a lot of propaganda talking about a cultural change in the immigration arena. There has been a lot of departmental restructuring and a significant amount of money spent on modifying the so-called cultural problems—the self-described cultural problems—within the immigration department. But the cultural problems stem back to the policies of the Australian government and the laws of the Migration Act. Those things are not changing and this case is a clear example of that.

It cannot be denied that there are serious human rights problems in China. It also cannot be denied that there are serious problems with the integrity of the justice system in some cases in China. In any other circumstance when a person in Australia is sought by the Chinese authorities for a criminal case there would be an extradition process in place. I note with interest that the Attorney-General has recently indicated his intention to adopt a more formal extradition procedure with China. Before such an agreement is adopted it should be, and I hope will be, thoroughly examined by the parliamentary committee on treaties.

The problem with Australia’s Migration Act is that those safeguards, even if we did have a solid comprehensive extradition treaty in place, do not apply because it is simply open to the minister to cancel somebody’s visa if an arrest warrant is provided or if suitable information is provided to make the minister decide that this person’s visa should be cancelled. Then the issues that are normally considered in extradition—whether it is safe to send people back, whether they will get a fair trial, whether there is substance to the charges, whether the identification is correct and it is not a case of mistaken identity, which is certainly a factor in this case as far as I am aware—can be considered. None of those thing things are considered by an independent body or court. It is simply a matter of the minister making a decision and then determining to try and remove somebody. That is what is happening here.

We had a Senate committee inquiry into these sorts of issues back in 2000. The committee’s report, A Sanctuary Under Review, examined precisely theses sorts of cases—that is, people being put at risk of deportation while the government ignores the fact that their case was being examined by the human rights committee. Very serious injustices occurred, including people being deported to China. I have mentioned the case of the Chinese woman who was deported back to China and had her 8½ month old pregnancy forcibly aborted after she was returned. It seems like those sorts of lessons have not been learnt at all. The same risks are being run again.

Question agreed to.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
Human Rights
Speech
Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (3.27 p.m.)—I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by Senator Ellison in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to my question without notice asked today.

My question went to a single, individual case. Most of the time in question time there are questions about broader policy issues or questions with a broader sweep, rather than questions about an individual case. But the individual case in question is one that is concerning, both because of the specific individual circumstances and because of the wider situation and reality that it goes to. The question relates to a Chinese national, a man who has been in detention in Australia for some time since his visa was cancelled. The visa was cancelled as the result of an arrest warrant provided by Chinese authorities.

There are a couple of aspects of this that are concerning. The most overarching concern that the Democrats have is that the United Nations Human Rights Committee is investigating this person’s case. That is a process that is open to anybody in any country where that country is a signatory to and has ratified the human rights convention, as Australia has, and other relevant human rights conventions. It is therefore completely appropriate and reasonable for people who have concerns to seek to have their case examined by the human rights committee at an international level.

It is a matter of great concern to the Democrats that the federal government is still adopting an approach which basically means that the immigration minister is prepared to ignore the fact that a case is still being examined by a human rights committee and will remove a person from the country to a potentially dangerous situation regardless. This should be a concern because the Australian government has spent many millions of dollars on a lot of propaganda talking about a cultural change in the immigration arena. There has been a lot of departmental restructuring and a significant amount of money spent on modifying the so-called cultural problems—the self-described cultural problems—within the immigration department. But the cultural problems stem back to the policies of the Australian government and the laws of the Migration Act. Those things are not changing and this case is a clear example of that.

It cannot be denied that there are serious human rights problems in China. It also cannot be denied that there are serious problems with the integrity of the justice system in some cases in China. In any other circumstance when a person in Australia is sought by the Chinese authorities for a criminal case there would be an extradition process in place. I note with interest that the Attorney-General has recently indicated his intention to adopt a more formal extradition procedure with China. Before such an agreement is adopted it should be, and I hope will be, thoroughly examined by the parliamentary committee on treaties.

The problem with Australia’s Migration Act is that those safeguards, even if we did have a solid comprehensive extradition treaty in place, do not apply because it is simply open to the minister to cancel somebody’s visa if an arrest warrant is provided or if suitable information is provided to make the minister decide that this person’s visa should be cancelled. Then the issues that are normally considered in extradition—whether it is safe to send people back, whether they will get a fair trial, whether there is substance to the charges, whether the identification is correct and it is not a case of mistaken identity, which is certainly a factor in this case as far as I am aware—can be considered. None of those thing things are considered by an independent body or court. It is simply a matter of the minister making a decision and then determining to try and remove somebody. That is what is happening here.

We had a Senate committee inquiry into these sorts of issues back in 2000. The committee’s report, A Sanctuary Under Review, examined precisely theses sorts of cases—that is, people being put at risk of deportation while the government ignores the fact that their case was being examined by the human rights committee. Very serious injustices occurred, including people being deported to China. I have mentioned the case of the Chinese woman who was deported back to China and had her 8½ month old pregnancy forcibly aborted after she was returned. It seems like those sorts of lessons have not been learnt at all. The same risks are being run again.

Question agreed to.

TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS – Human Rights
Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (3.27 p.m.)—I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by Senator Ellison in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to my question without notice asked today.

My question went to a single, individual case. Most of the time in question time there are questions about broader policy issues or questions with a broader sweep, rather than questions about an individual case. But the individual case in question is one that is concerning, both because of the specific individual circumstances and because of the wider situation and reality that it goes to. The question relates to a Chinese national, a man who has been in detention in Australia for some time since his visa was cancelled. The visa was cancelled as the result of an arrest warrant provided by Chinese authorities.

There are a couple of aspects of this that are concerning. The most overarching concern that the Democrats have is that the United Nations Human Rights Committee is investigating this person’s case. That is a process that is open to anybody in any country where that country is a signatory to and has ratified the human rights convention, as Australia has, and other relevant human rights conventions. It is therefore completely appropriate and reasonable for people who have concerns to seek to have their case examined by the human rights committee at an international level.

It is a matter of great concern to the Democrats that the federal government is still adopting an approach which basically means that the immigration minister is prepared to ignore the fact that a case is still being examined by a human rights committee and will remove a person from the country to a potentially dangerous situation regardless. This should be a concern because the Australian government has spent many millions of dollars on a lot of propaganda talking about a cultural change in the immigration arena. There has been a lot of departmental restructuring and a significant amount of money spent on modifying the so-called cultural problems—the self-described cultural problems—within the immigration department. But the cultural problems stem back to the policies of the Australian government and the laws of the Migration Act. Those things are not changing and this case is a clear example of that.

It cannot be denied that there are serious human rights problems in China. It also cannot be denied that there are serious problems with the integrity of the justice system in some cases in China. In any other circumstance when a person in Australia is sought by the Chinese authorities for a criminal case there would be an extradition process in place. I note with interest that the Attorney-General has recently indicated his intention to adopt a more formal extradition procedure with China. Before such an agreement is adopted it should be, and I hope will be, thoroughly examined by the parliamentary committee on treaties.

The problem with Australia’s Migration Act is that those safeguards, even if we did have a solid comprehensive extradition treaty in place, do not apply because it is simply open to the minister to cancel somebody’s visa if an arrest warrant is provided or if suitable information is provided to make the minister decide that this person’s visa should be cancelled. Then the issues that are normally considered in extradition—whether it is safe to send people back, whether they will get a fair trial, whether there is substance to the charges, whether the identification is correct and it is not a case of mistaken identity, which is certainly a factor in this case as far as I am aware—can be considered. None of those thing things are considered by an independent body or court. It is simply a matter of the minister making a decision and then determining to try and remove somebody. That is what is happening here.

We had a Senate committee inquiry into these sorts of issues back in 2000. The committee’s report, A Sanctuary Under Review, examined precisely theses sorts of cases—that is, people being put at risk of deportation while the government ignores the fact that their case was being examined by the human rights committee. Very serious injustices occurred, including people being deported to China. I have mentioned the case of the Chinese woman who was deported back to China and had her 8½ month old pregnancy forcibly aborted after she was returned. It seems like those sorts of lessons have not been learnt at all. The same risks are being run again.

Question agreed to.

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