The Australian government’s call for China to explain its bungled handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic could spark a boycott by Chinese consumers, who may no longer travel and study in Australia or buy major exports including beef and wine.
That was the stark warning delivered Monday by Ambassador Cheng Jingye via an interview published in the Australian Financial Review.
The ambassador said Australia’s inquiry push was “dangerous” and destined to fail, adding to previous criticism from Beijing, which portrayed Canberra as unblinking lackeys of the U.S. in the Pacific.
“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’,” he said.
“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 our kids.”
Education is Australia’s third biggest export and is worth more than $30 billion to the economy every year.
The ambassador refused to comment on whether key exports such as iron ore, coal and gas would be similarly affected by perceived anti-China sentiment.
“Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” Cheng said.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt maintains an independent inquiry was in the interests of Australia and the world.
“We’ve seen three million people infected and over 200,000 lives lost so of course there has to be an independent review,” Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“To have a major global, cataclysmic event and not to review it would seem very odd and very strange and so ultimately we have to take the steps that are in not just the interests of Australia, but in the interests of common humanity,” Hunt added.
Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, previously flagged her concern about China’s transparency was at a “a very high point”and reflected doubts in Canberra over the performance of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), as Breitbart News reported.
“The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that,” Payne told ABC television. “In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.”
She continued: “It will need parties, countries to come to the table with a willingness to be transparent and to engage in that process and to ensure that we have a review mechanism in which the international community can have faith.”
Australia’s push for China to come clean over its handling of all facets of the coronavirus pandemic followed the United States’ pause of funding for W.H.O. at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, who said the organisation was promoting Chinese “disinformation” about the virus.
Trump warned China then that actions have consquences:
The Australians have been among the most outspoken critics of China’s dangerous refusal to close the “wet markets” seen as spawning grounds for viral pandemics, and of the W.H.O.’s baffling endorsement of the wet markets reopening.
Australia was the first country to block China’s Huawei telecom giant from supplying equipment for its 5G network while Australian warships have been working with the U.S. Navy to curb Chinese aggression in contested waters.
For all Australia’s effort in holding China to account, ultimately it is pushing back against the ruling Communist Party which historically regards telling the truth as an act of sedition.