The Morrison government will work with China to provide consular assistance to Uyghur citizens and other Muslim minorities with Australian connections.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne on Wednesday shut down Greens leader Richard Di Natale’s request for the government to impose targeted sanctions, such as visa bans and asset freezes, against those linked to abuses in China’s Xinjiang province.
“We seek the support of the government in China … for an opportunity to visit the region and to enable others to visit the region, which they have indicated in the past there is some preparedness to do,” Senator Payne said.
It has inquired with Chinese authorities about Australian citizens and permanent residents who may be in Xinjiang, upon request from family members in Australia.
The response comes as the government faces mounting calls to help Australian citizens Sadam Abudusalamu and Almas Nizamadin reunite with loved ones from China after years of separation due to the crackdown on Uyghurs.
The men met politicians on Wednesday to plead for the release of their wives, who are unable to flee the troubled province.
“We got a commitment for a multi-partisan approach from our Parliament to do all they can, publicly and privately, to ensure these families are reunited,” Amnesty International campaigner Tim O’Connor told The New Daily.
He said Mr Abudusalamu’s wife Nadila Wumaier was released late on Wednesday after being detained by Xinjiang police following her husband’s appearance on ABC’s Four Corners last week.
His wife was feeling “terrified”, Mr Abudusalamu told The New Daily.
They’ve had minimal communication in the two years they’ve been separated.
Ms Wumaier was detained in one of the prison-like ‘re-education’ camps for two weeks in April 2018, before being released. She has since been prevented from leaving Xinjiang after her passport was confiscated by Chinese authorities.
“The last time I saw my wife was when she was pregnant,” Mr Abudusalamu said.
He has not been able to meet his son, who will turn two in August.
“I’m hoping I can celebrate his birthday with him.”
He is seeking legal assistance after he failed in his quest to obtain a partner visa for his wife to travel to Australia.
She said his wife could not fulfil the visa requirements because she was unable to obtain a police check.
Meanwhile, Mr Nizamadin is holding out hope of being reunited with his wife Bizainafu Abudourexi, who suffered a miscarriage after her arrest in 2017.
Mr Nizamadin has not seen or spoken with her since then.
Ms Abudourexi had just learned she was pregnant and was on her way to the hospital for a health check-up when she was arrested by authorities and locked up in a ‘re-education camp’.
Mr Nizamadin had already applied for a partner visa for his wife but it was eventually rejected in 2018 after they could not obtain a police check requested by Australian immigration authorities.
Amnesty International said Ms Abudourexi was charged with “assembling a crowd to disturb social order”, and sentenced to seven years in jail.
“I wish they (the Australia government) would help me,” Mr Nizamidin said.
“I just want to reunite with my family. I don’t expect more than that.”
Amnesty International campaigner Nikita White said the relatives of the men are among thousands of people who have been locked up for “doing nothing wrong”.
Ms White said they have been subjected to human rights abuses simply because they are Uyghurs.
She said Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to fast-track the refugee applications of relatives of the Australian Uyghur community and afford them the ability to travel.