‘Despicable and Menacing’: Australian Lawmakers Attack China’s Wayward Diplomacy

Consul General LONG Zhou
China Consul-General/Melbourne

The war of undiplomatic words between China and Australia over the latter’s call for a global inquiry into the coronavirus epidemic rumbled onwards Thursday, with Australian lawmakers past and present hitting out at recent comments from China’s representatives.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman from the ruling conservative coalition said he was disappointed by the Chinese Ambassador Jingye Cheng’s suggestion the inquiry could lead to a boycott of Australian products.

“I thought the Ambassador’s comments were downright despicable and menacing,” he said, according to the ABC.

“But in the broader framework we should have a relationship with China that allows us to be raising these issues whilst also recognising that China will always be an important partner for us.”

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer described the ambassador’s conduct as almost unprecedented.

“Not since the days of the Soviet Union have I seen an ambassador behave in such a reckless, undiplomatic way. And what is the problem? I mean the prime minister has just said that there should be an investigation,” he told ABC RN’s Between The Lines.

“The Chinese ambassador’s reaction is as though China has been cornered and told that it’s guilty.”

He says while China can “of course decide that they don’t want to import anything from anywhere around the world”, that would hurt an economy already suffering as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“I mean it’s just a completely absurd proposition,” Mr Downer said, adding there must be an impartial investigation into the cause of the outbreak that was first noticed in the southern China city of Wuhan last november.

“The global economy has been brought to a halt, 200,000 people are dead as a result of it,” he said.

“We’ve got to investigate it. And we’ve got to find out how it happened. And I’m very surprised that the Chinese should be so resistant to getting to the heart of what happened.”

For his part, Cheng said in a statement he “flatly rejected the concern expressed from the Australian side over his remarks.”

Meanwhile, another former conservative government minister, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, criticised the appearance Wednesday of the Victorian Chinese Consul General (pictured) at a coronavirus testing announcement alongside businessman Andrew Forrest and Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“It was unfortunate, I don’t think we should have afforded that opportunity and it did put Minister Hunt in a very difficult position yesterday,” she said.

“This is what the Communist regime is doing all over the world. We have seen that the regime in Beijing is desperately trying to re-establish a degree of credibility after the virus has happened, they are desperately trying to deflect the origins of the virus.”

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