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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7636


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/06/1989

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 7636

During Question Time in the Senate today, Senator Hill asked
Senator Walsh to table a letter which I had sent to Premier
Li Peng of China.
As a matter of policy and practice, I do not release the
contents of my private correspondence with foreign Heads of
Government on issues of on-going policy importance.
In view, however, of the depth of public interest and
concern in Australia over the tragic events in China, I have
agreed to make an exception in this case and a copy of the
letter will be tabled in the Senate at the earliest

12 JUN 1989
I write to you with a deep sense of tragedy and sympathy
for the people of China, following the terrible events
of the past few days.
The Australian Government and people have expressed
their condemnation of the brutal massacre of unarmed
civilians in Beijing by military forces under the
control of your Government. I do not seek to conceal
the depth of feeling among Australians, nor my own sense
of outrage, on this issue.
But my purpose in writing to you goes beyond this. I am
concerned with the future of China, the future of the
Asia-Pacific region and of the world, and the future of
Australia's relations with China.
For nearly two decades no country has done more to
develop friendly and cooperative bilateral relations
with China than has Australia. Moreover, our Government
has been active in spreading the good word about
developments in China and their significance among our
neighbours in Asia and the Pacific and among western
countries with which we have close relations.
We have regarded the emergence of China along the path
of economic reform and openness to the outside world as
one of the most positive developments, regionally and
globally, of our time. Australians have drawn great
encouragement from the progress and stability achieved
within China and from the constructive role China has
played in our neighbourhood and on the international
stage. This makes the tragedy and the set back of the
events of June 1989 so much the greater.
The future interests of China will, I am convinced,
continue to be served by economic reform and the open
door policy. But, as I have said on a number of
occasions to Chinese leaders, this process-will
inevitably create pressures for political reform. That

this is inevitable makes it the task and challenge of
leadership to accommodate these pressures peacefully and
by dialogue. Only in this way will the great creative
capacities of the Chinese people be deployed fully to
achieve the goal of modernisation.
Tragically, on 4 and 5 June the Government of China took
a different an abhorrently different way. That
tragedy will not be forgotten. But, as we look to the
future, it is vitally in China's interests that armed
violence against innocent civilians should cease.
Equally, it is not in China's interests to repress
intellectuals, teachers, students, workers who have
recently sought to express their political views
peacefully. Thus, I earnestly hope that all those
people, including people in positions of high
responsibility, who have expressed contrary views, will
be treated with dignity and humanity. Any other course
of action will not only further damage China's
international reputation. It will directly undermine
efforts for the economic and technological advancement
of the Chinese people.
I make these comments out of a spirit of genuine concern
for China and of deep admiration for your great country.
My comments are dictated by the affection I feel for the
people of China and my profound-conviction that the
world needs a China, prosperous, peaceful and in harmony
with other nations.
My plea to you is to replace the processes of violence
with the processes of dialogue, the processes of
repression with the processes of tolerance, the
processes of suspicion with the processes of trust. On
this basis, China will in time be able to resume the
path of reform and modernisation. And on this basis,
Australia remains prepared to play a constructive and
cooperative role with China, as it has since 1972.
~) dtiA
His Excellency Mr Li Peng
Premier of the State Council of the
People's Republic of China

Transcript 7636