Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has delivered a stinging criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership during a speech to the Yushan Forum in Taiwan on Oct. 8.
Abbott said he turned down an opportunity to attend the conference two years earlier, afraid he might provoke Beijing. However, since then, his perspective on the Chinese regime has changed after the CCP took over Hong Kong, carried out the persecution of the Uyghur minority, and “cancelled popular personalities in favour of a cult of a new red emperor.”
“It’s weaponised trade, especially against Australia, with our barley, wine and coal exports all stopped on spurious safety grounds, and its embassy has published 14 demands—essentially that we become a tributary state—that no self-respecting country could accept,” he told dignitaries at the Forum including Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
“The trigger was politely seeking an impartial inquiry into the origins of the Wuhan virus,” he added. “So, this year, I’m here, having concluded that China’s belligerence is all self-generated.”
He admitted that he previously had high hopes for the CCP when he signed off on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and prepared to join the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. However, that has since changed.
“Much has changed in just six years, but it’s not Australia’s goodwill towards the people of China, about a million of whom are now Australians and making a fine contribution to our country,” he said. “Australia has no issue with China. We welcome trade, investment and visits, just not further hectoring about being the chewing gum on China’s boot.”
Abbott urged democratic allies to stand in solidarity with Taiwan against Beijing’s increased aggression, which he noted was entirely the fault of the communist regime.
“Sensing that its relative power might have peaked, with its population ageing, its economy slowing, and its finances creaking, it’s quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously very soon,” he said.
“Our challenge is to try to ensure that the unthinkable remains unlikely; and that the possible doesn’t become the probable,” he added, stressing that any attempt by Beijing to coerce Taiwan should be met with “incalculable consequences.”
“Nothing is more pressing right now than solidarity with Taiwan if we want a better world,” he said. “I won’t end urging you to stay safe. Rather something nobler and higher; stay free.”
Chinese state-owned media mouthpiece, The Global Times on Oct. 6, warned that current sitting Australian members of Parliament should not follow Abbott’s example and visit Taiwan, claiming it would cause “irreparable damages.”
Abbott is the second former Australian prime minister to address the Forum after Malcolm Turnbull.
He arrived in Taiwan on Oct. 7, revealing he was visiting in his own private capacity and that he was keen to assist the self-governing island with ending its international isolation.
Abbott has backed Taiwan’s entry into the 11-nation strong Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership instead of China.