Daily News Roundup

September 8, 2020

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 

The stinging criticism of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap out of lockdown is continuing with politicians, citizens and medical experts weighing in.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joined the growing chorus of critics.

He argued that Melbourne’s lockdown was “longer than Wuhan”, and that he was “sure we can do better”.

The backlash comes as new modelling shows the plan will see 260,000 more Victorians lose their jobs, with a staggering 432,000 already out of work due to lockdown.

Under the state’s roadmap, some restrictions will begin to ease this Sunday, although many will remain in place until at least late October.

Victoria has reported 55 new coronavirus infections and eight further deaths overnight, taking the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 683.

The case numbers are a slight increase on yesterday’s 41 new infections, which was the lowest daily total recorded in Victoria in more than 10 weeks.

Under Victoria’s “roadmap” out of restrictions, Melbourne needs to record a 14-day daily average below 50 cases in order to progress to the second step on September 28.

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed nine new coronavirus infections in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday, including three at two Sydney hospitals.

Three of the yesterday’s cases were linked to Concord Hospital, in Sydney’s inner west and includes two healthcare workers and a visitor.

Another three of the new infections were returned travellers in hotel quarantine and the remainder are locally acquired and linked to known cases or clusters.

Queensland has recorded one new coronavirus case overnight, as the Government launches a new trial to increase support services for people forced into hotel quarantine.

The woman, who is in her late 20s, had recently returned from overseas and is currently in mandatory quarantine.

The state now has 25 active cases with 7,660 tests conducted in the last 24 hours.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the Government’s pilot program would provide more social support for people forced into hotel isolation.

Currently, anyone returning from overseas or Queenslanders returning home, must quarantine in a nominated hotel at their own expense, and not at their home.

People from interstate COVID-19 hotspot areas who are given exemptions to enter the state, may also be sent to hotel quarantine.

###

The ABC and the Australian Financial Review have rushed their correspondents out of China after police demanded interviews with both journalists, resulting in an extraordinary diplomatic standoff, reports the ABC.

Bill Birtles, the ABC’s correspondent based in Beijing, and Mike Smith, the AFR’s correspondent based in Shanghai, boarded a flight to Sydney last night after the pair were questioned separately by China’s Ministry of State security.

Birtles had spent four days sheltering in Australia’s Embassy in Beijing, while Smith took refuge in Australia’s Shanghai consulate as diplomats negotiated with Chinese officials to allow them to safely leave the country.

The saga began early last week, when Australian diplomats in Beijing cautioned Birtles that he should leave China, with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade giving the same advice to ABC’s managing director David Anderson in Sydney.

Subsequent advice prompted the ABC to organise flights back to Australia for Birtles. He was due to depart last Thursday morning.

But the threatening behaviour from Chinese officials peaked before he could leave, when seven police officers arrived at Birtles’ apartment at midnight last Wednesday as he was holding farewell drinks with friends and colleagues.

They told him he was banned from leaving the country, and that he would be contacted the next day to organise a time to be questioned over a “national security case”.

The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith (left) and the ABC’s Bill Birtles flew out of Shanghai on Monday night.(Supplied)

Birtles called the Australian Embassy and arranged to be collected from his apartment. He stayed in the Beijing diplomatic compound for the next few days, where he was contacted by Chinese officials demanding an interview.

He refused to speak with them, citing fears for his personal safety.

He is not suspected of anything by Chinese authorities.

Birtles was interviewed by Chinese authorities on Sunday, accompanied by Australia’s ambassador to China Graham Fletcher, after an agreement was reached between Australian and Chinese officials that his travel ban would be lifted if he spoke to them.

During the meeting, no questions were asked about his reporting or conduct in China.

###

There have been fresh calls to boycott the new live-action remake of Mulan after Disney included a thanks in the credits to Chinese Government authorities who have been linked to human rights violations, reports the ABC.

The film, a remake of the much-loved 1998 animated movie, has previously been embroiled in controversy after one of the stars publicly supported police cracking down on independence protests in Hong Kong.

Mulan, which premiered in Australia on Disney’s online streaming service Disney+ on September 4, was filmed primarily in New Zealand and China, including desert scenes subtitled as “north-west China”.

In 2017, the New Zealand director of the $US200 million ($275 million) film, Niki Caro, posted on Instagram location scouting photos taken of sand dunes tagged at Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The Chinese Government has been widely condemned for its detention and surveillance of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

There have been allegations of forced sterilisation of Uyghur womenforced labour in factories, and other measures amounting to what has been described as cultural genocide.

However, the Government has repeatedly denied its “vocational training centres” are concentration camps, and says the measures are necessary to counter what it calls extremism and terrorism.

In Mulan’s credits, Disney offers “China Special Thanks” to the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uygher Autonomous Region Committee as well as the Publicity Department and Bureau of Public Security for the city of Turpan, which is north-east of Urumqi in Xinjiang.

The United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security in October last year added the Turpan Municipality Public Security Bureau to a list of Chinese entities “acting contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States”.

“Specifically, these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the XUAR [Xinjiang Uygher Autonomous Region],” the Department of Commerce said in a notification of the listing.

Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson told the ABC that Disney’s public thanks raised questions about whether and how the company engaged with authorities in Xinjiang.

Ms Richardson questioned whether Disney thought through how that relationship would be perceived “at a time when most of the global discussion about Xinjiang is about appalling mass detention of people outside of any legal process on the basis of their ethnic and religious identity, about forced labour, torture and unparalleled destruction of religious freedom”.