Close offshore detention centres, China urges Australia

GENEVA • China said it was "deeply concerned" by what it described as the Australian government's operation of offshore detention centres, and urged their immediate closure.

Relations between the two countries soured in 2018 when Australia became the first nation to publicly ban China's Huawei from its 5G network, and worsened when Canberra last year called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

In a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, China said the detention centres "fall short of adequate medical conditions, where a large number of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers have been detained over a long period of time or even indefinitely".

It did not specify any locations, describing them as "third countries". Asylum seekers intercepted at sea en route to Australia are sent for "processing" to Papua New Guinea or to the South Pacific island of Nauru.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China itself has long faced accusations that it operates detention centres, with UN experts and rights groups estimating it has detained more than a million people in its Xinjiang region.

Beijing describes the camps as vocational centres designed to combat extremism. "We urge Australia to immediately close down all offshore detention centres," China said in its statement, which it submitted on behalf of a group of unnamed countries. It also called on Canberra to carry out "comprehensive and fair investigations" into reported cases of "serious war crimes" committed by Australian troops overseas.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 14, 2021, with the headline 'Close offshore detention centres, China urges Australia'. Subscribe