Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review in an interview published on Monday that Australia's push for an inquiry was "dangerous" and predicted it would fail to gain traction.
China’s ambassador reportedly is warning the Australian government its pursuit of a coronavirus inquiry could set off a boycott by Chinese consumers, who may no longer travel and study in Australia or buy major exports including beef and wine.
Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review in an interview published on Monday that Australia’s push for an inquiry was “dangerous” and predicted it would fail to gain traction.
“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 said an independent inquiry was in the interests of Australia and the world.
“We’ve seen 3 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.
The Australian government has called for an inquiry into the respiratory virus and for changes to the World Health Organization due to its alleged shortcomings in handling the pandemic.
Education is Australia’s third-largest export industry and China is the largest source of students studying in Australia. China is also Australia’s largest trading partner.
The Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the newspaper article.