It has been 24 hours filled with insults. If it’s not the Victorians and South Australians trading insults, it’s the Australian having a go at the Chinese – and vice versa.
In yet another twist in the ongoing battle in the war of words between Australia and China in recent weeks, the Chinese government has reacted strongly to comments made by Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in which she said warning given to Chinese students and travellers about racist attacks in Australia were “disinformation”
Creating a climate of fear and division
In a foreign policy address in Canberra on Tuesday 16 April, Payne said the utterances were contributing “to a climate of fear and division”.
She used part of her speech to discuss disinformation, saying it was a challenge that had been highlighted during the pandemic, when false information had the potential to cost lives.
According to the Guardian Australia newspaper, the Foreign Minister appealed for institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “serve as bulwarks against disinformation”.
Pandemic being used to undermine democracy
Payne said it was “troubling that some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy and promote their own, more authoritarian models”.
Amid current tensions with Beijing stemming from Australia’s pursuit of an independent international investigation into the COVID-19 origins and response, Payne said Australia had been “very clear in rejecting as disinformation the Chinese government’s warnings that tourists and students should reconsider coming here because of the risk of racism”.
Payne said Australia would welcome students and visitors from all over the world, regardless of race, gender or nationality, with law enforcement agencies responding to individual crimes.
Accusations are “completely rubbish” says China
China responded on Wednesday, saying there were “baseless accusations” and “completely rubbish”
At a press briefing in Beijing, also reported by Guardian Australia, Chinese government spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Australian officials of undermining international efforts to combat the virus.
“Australian officials have described the facts of discrimination and violence within their country as disinformation – but what about the feelings of those victims?” Zhao said.
“I would like to again advise Australia to listen attentively to the voices of the victims, face its problems and self-reflect. To be frank, we do not believe it is in Australia’s long-term interest to manipulate the epidemic for personal gain, disregard facts and undermine international cooperation.”