China’s Premier Li Keqiang was met by Tibetan protestors as he arrived in Canberra for the start of his five day Australian tour. Tibetan Australians along with Chinese Falun Gong practitioners waited outside the Hyatt Hotel until after midnight to greet Mr Li with placards calling for religious freedoms and an end to political repression. The following day a large crowd of protestors, including former political prisoners and their families, gathered on the lawns of Parliament House with members of the Australian Green and Labour parties.
To highlight growing concerns about the Chinese influence on Australia’s economy and society, the Tibetans symbolically tossed small Chinese “hong bao” – red envelopes traditionally used to offer cash gifts – at the protest. This gesture was intended to implore the Australians not to let their institutions and values be undermined by the influence of Chinese finance.
Mr Li, flanked by a large Chinese business delegation, is visiting both Canberra and Sydney during his tour. The focus is on pushing Chinese free trade initiatives and promoting China as a stable partner in “a disorientated era beset by uncertainties”, an apparent reference to the recent election of Donald Trump in the United States of America and his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Representatives from both countries will also discuss the ratification of an extradition treaty which was signed in 2007. Ratification by the Australian parliament could lead to the extradition of Australian Tibetans back to China.
Whilst there is speculation that the Australian government is likely to engage in some rhetorical platitudes about human rights before meekly complying in the face of Chinese financial muscle, the Australian cricket team is expected to put up more of a fight during their test match with India in Dharamshala this weekend. The team met His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Friday, with Captain Steve Smith rubbing noses with His Holiness and receiving some advice on how to get a better night’s sleep.