21 August 2009

Rudd defends Australia visa grant to Kadeer

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Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd strongly asserted Australia's right to determine who enters the country, a response to the fallout over the visit by a woman China regards as a terrorist.

Kevin Rudd defended the Australia visa grant to Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, a decision that had angered China.

“The Government I lead is one where Australia makes decisions on who it issues visas to or not,” Mr Rudd said in a statement.

The strongly worded statement comes during a difficult period in relations between Australia and China, which started with the arrest of Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu.

Kadeer, a US resident, was issued an Australian visa to attend the screening of a documentary on her life in Melbourne, Victoria.

Beijing had snubbed Resources Minister Martin Ferguson while he was in China this week to sign a $50 billion gas deal.

Ambassador Geoff Raby's failure to arrange top-level meetings for Mr Ferguson is understood to have been a reason he was recalled to Canberra for urgent talks.

Yesterday, Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Australian Government had failed to work constructively with China regarding the visit of Ms Kadeer.

“The Liberal Party is now saying that when it comes to Australia's visa policy that we've got to get a permit slip from another country,” Mr Rudd said.

He said Australia's relationship with China was challenging and would be for some time, accusing the Opposition of using the Kadeer issue and Mr Hu's arrest to play domestic politics.

“What we've seen instead from the alternative government of Australia is a determination to play domestic politics with this relationship on this and so many other aspects of it,” Mr Rudd said.

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