US President Donald Trump has urged other countries to support Australia’s investigation. China has accused Australia of copying the United States in resolution to conduct research independently from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The enquiries focus mainly ni the origins of the outbreak and how each country as well as the WHO responded to the threat of a pandemic crisis.
During an interview for an Australian newspaper this week, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye issued a warning that the investigations could trigger a negative response from China.
The response could involve a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia as well as of sales of primary goods such as beef and wine.
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China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, told the Australian Financial Review: “I think in the long term … if the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think, ‘Why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China?’
“The tourists may have second thoughts. The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send their kids here. It is up to the people to decide.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated his intentions of conducting the investigation
“Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’”
When senior Australian diplomat Frances Adamson raised concerns about the interview, Mr Cheng made public his records of their telephone interview.
Mr Cheng said he told Adamson to “put aside ideological bias” and “stop political games.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned China’s intimidation and encouraged US allies to also demand clarity and answers.
During a press briefing Mr Pompeo said: “I saw some comments from the Chinese foreign ministry talking about coercive activity with respect to Australia, who had the temerity to ask for an investigation.
“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?”
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Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye warned that the investigations could trigger a negative response from China
The Chinese foreign ministry denied the claims of an economic blackmailing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday reiterated his intentions of conducting the investigation.
He also made clear that the only motivation from such an investigation was to prevent a similar global crisis happening again.
“I don’t think anybody’s in any fantasy land about where it started. It started in China and what the world over needs to know — and there’s a lot of support for this — is how did it start and what are the lessons that can be learned,” Mr Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB.
“That needs to be done independently and why do we want to know that? Because it could happen again.”
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned China’s intimidation
Australian media mogul Kerry Stokes used the front page of The West Australian newspaper to urge Mr Morrison to mitigate China’s response to the dossier.
“If we’re going to go into the biggest debt we’ve had in our life and then simultaneously poke our biggest provider of income in the eye, it’s not necessarily the smartest thing you can do,” his newspaper quoted Mr Stokes as saying.
Mr Stokes statement refers to the billions of dollars in debt the government is facing to salvage the country’s economy.
The Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly admonished Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton when they disputed over transparency.
Ms Payne has accused Ambassador Cheng of “economic coercion,” while government lawmaker Trent Zimmer has condemned his boycott comments as “downright despicable and menacing”.
Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the ambassador has “gone rogue.”
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Chinese diplomat Long Shou, a state consular-general, has been accused of infiltrating Health Minister Greg Hunt’s Covid-19 press conference on Tuesday by attending without a government invitation and discussing China-Australia relations.
“Beijing’s message around the world today is: tremble and obey, and we will reward you with goodies if you do,” The Australian newspaper’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan wrote.
Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former Australian prime minister and student of China, said that whether China imposing an economic punishment on Australia “would be very much a wait-and-see process”.
Mr Rudd said: “The bottom line is, put megaphones away and use private lines of communication to solve very complex, very difficult and very hard questions,
“That’s the best way for all parties into the future.”