Police accused of ‘excessive force’ by protester during Chinese premier’s visit to parliament

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun14,2024
Critics of the Chinese Communist Party have accused Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers of using “unnecessary” force against demonstrators who were protesting against a visit by a Chinese official on the lawns of Parliament House.

Chinese premier Li Qiang’s four-day visit to Australia sparked a face-off between protesters in Canberra on Monday, with pro-China demonstrators colliding with the Australian Tibetan community and the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, vocally opposing his visit.

Human rights activist and journalist Vicky Xu criticised the AFP after she was filmed being dragged by officers as she held the Chinese flag on Monday.
“A friend of mine had a Chinese Communist Party flag, that he was planning to burn,” she told SBS News.

“I saw that the police were trying to forcefully take the flag away from him, so I intervened and tried to understand what was happening.

“Next thing I knew I was being shoved by the police.”
She claims an officer had a hand on her neck and that her finger was twisted during the incident.
While she understood the need for the AFP to reduce the temperature and ensure peaceful protesting, she said it was “too much force”, labelling it “brutalising” on X.

SBS News has contacted ACT Policing for comment.

In a statement, it said: “The AFP has received no complaint in relation to police conduct in managing protests today at Parliament House”.
Police have been forced to intervene from time to time as the protesters confront one another.

One person was arrested at the protests outside Parliament House for what ACT Policing said was “a breach of the peace”.

A group of people standing outside with flags

Pro-China supporters have clashed with members of Australia’s Tibetan community and the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement outside Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

The tense moments contrasted with the official reception for Beijing’s second most powerful leader, with the day starting with a ceremonial welcome, including a cannon salute, on the forecourt of Parliament House in Canberra.

Li declared that Chinese-Australian ties were “back on track after a period of twists and turns” when he arrived on the weekend, for the first visit by a Chinese premier in seven years.

Chinese premier Li Qiang inspecting a guard of honour outside the Australian parliament house.

Li’s visit started with a ceremonial welcome. Source: AAP / Lukas Coch

Cheng Lei says she was ‘blocked’ at Parliament House

But another moment during the proceedings has also raised eyebrows.

A group of people sit in chairs

Australian journalist Cheng Lei (looking left) attends a signing ceremony by Premier Li Qiang and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP / /

Australian journalist Cheng Lei, , claims she was blocked by Chinese officials during a signing ceremony during official proceedings.

A video of the signing ceremony appears to show two Chinese officials blocking her from the view of cameras broadcasting the event and refusing to move when asked.

She told Sky News she believes this was done to prevent audiences from seeing her as a symbol of defiance of the Chinese government.
“I think the worry is that my being there is a symbol of some sort, and maybe they didn’t want that for the domestic audience.

“Having dealt with Chinese officialdom on these sorts of events, they are very, very control freak-ish, so they want to know everything and they want to stage-manage everything.”

China-Australia relations ‘on right track’

Premier Li arrived at Parliament House to meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and several cabinet members including Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell and Resources Minister Madeleine King.
The prime minister’s November 2023 trip to China followed by Li’s current visit to Australia showed both countries attached “great importance” to their relationship, the premier said.

“This relationship is on the right track of steady improvement,” he said.

Two men in suits shaking hands and smiling.

Both the Chinese Premier Li Qiang and the Prime Minister have expressed how crucial the visit is to bilateral relations. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

“Prime Minister Albanese and I have had a candid, in-depth and fruitful discussion that has reached a lot of common consensus.”

Albanese said the bilateral talks were crucial for the Australia-China relationship which had been “renewed and revitalised” by the engagement.
The politicians signed four memoranda of understanding on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, climate change, education and research, strategic economic dialogue, and cultural cooperation.

Representatives of both nations then attended a state lunch with business and community leaders where they were served wine, wagyu beef and, most notably, Australian rock lobster – which remains subject to trade restrictions.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt noted there had been “enormous progress” in restoring trade with China in the past few years after sanctions on coal, wine and barley were lifted.
The remaining trade bans are expected to be lifted within the coming weeks.
Also on the battle agenda of the high-level talks was the case of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who languishes ill in a Chinese jail, and tensions in the South China Sea.

With additional reporting from AAP

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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