PERTH, Australia (AP) — An outspoken Australian parliamentarian on Monday branded the China's Communist Party "oppressive" after marching with protesters in Hong Kong.
A former Australian Human Rights commissioner, Tim Wilson of the Liberal party, said he has been inspired by the pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, where protests against Beijing have continued for four months.
Wilson marched with the protesters on Sunday as they defied a new ban on face masks that was meant to deter rioting and calm the situation but has instead led to more anger. It was a rare public act of defiance from a prominent Australian politician toward Beijing over the issue.
The protest were sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent from Hong Kong to mainland China for trial, but have since morphed into a larger anti-government movement. Protesters are upset at what they say are Beijing's increasing influence over the former British colony, which was promised a level of autonomy when it was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Wilson told ABC Radio on Monday that China's Communist Party was an "authoritative regime by nature and authoritative regimes are oppressive and that's why people are standing up for their future."
He said he supported "non-violent protest."
Wilson declined further comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Chinese officials have said the events in Hong Kong are an internal matter and have denounced foreign meddling or criticism.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been measured in his public comments over the Hong Kong protests. Australia relies on China for one-third of its export earnings.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said Wilson, who is the member of the affluent electorate of Goldstein, was grandstanding.
"I don't give him a lot of thought, frankly, and nor do his colleagues," Albanese told reporters on Monday.
Wilson has been accused of hypocrisy after a 2011 tweet resurfaced where he suggested protesters from Occupy Melbourne - part of the global social movement on economic inequality - should be sprayed with water cannons.