A group of Australian MPs are set to visit Taiwan next month under the watchful eyes of China, which claims the self-governed island as its own territory. The 10 Australian parliamentarians include Labor MPs Josh Wilson, David Smith and Graham Perrett, as well as Claire Chandler.
Although the Australian government does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, it maintains informal political connections and deep trade ties. Next month’s visit will be quite similar to the 2022 visit, wherein six Australian MPs met President Tsai Ing Wen and other top officials in Taiwan.
Senator Chandler says the forthcoming trip was a continuation of parliamentary visits stretching back years. “Australian parliamentary delegations have been visiting Taiwan for many years, just as Australian delegations visit many other destinations regularly.”
The Shadow Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister described Taiwan as one of the largest destinations for Australian exports. “There is a long history of Australian MPs and senators visiting, so there is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about this cross-party delegation.”
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canberra said the parliamentary exchanges were a common practice among democracies and it would welcome Australian parliamentarians from all political parties to visit Taiwan. It highlighted that Taiwan and Australia enjoyed shared values of democracy, freedom, and respect of human rights. The two nations are also committed to the peace and security in a rules-based Indo-Pacific region, and have established trade ties.
However, Beijing is not going to let Australia off the hook so easily. It is closely monitoring the scheduled visit as its “politically sensitive”. Last year, the Chinese government rebuked Canberra for resuming parliamentary delegation visits. This time around, the Australian MPs are playing it low as they don’t want the country to get into China’s black book and severe stable relations.
As such, the MPs are engaged in delicate negotiations with their Chinese counterparts over high-level meetings. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also said to be planning a visit to Australia, and the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is also likely to visit Beijing later in the year.