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China threatens Australia with boycott of goods over virus probe

A social distancing sign hangs on the railing of Bondi Beach, as it remains closed due to restrictions in place to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Sydney, Australia, on April 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

China’s ambassador to Australia has warned that Canberra’s insistence on a politically motivated investigation into Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak could result in a boycott of Australian products.

Ambassador Cheng Jingye warned in an interview with the Australian Financial Review published on Sunday that a demand for a probe could lead to a consumer boycott.

“The Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed, and disappointed with what Australia is doing now,” he said.

The Chinese diplomat advised Australians not to push for a probe, warning Canberra that pandering to the United States could be “dangerous.”

Australia has joined Washington in calling for an investigation into how the new coronavirus transformed from a Chinese epidemic limited to the central city of Wuhan into a global pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people.

Last Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that, in a phone call with US President Donald Trump, he had sought US support for launching an international investigation into the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration first floated the idea, insinuating that the virus had been artificially synthesized in a laboratory in Wuhan. The lab facing the accusation has dismissed the claim as a conspiracy theory.

It is widely believed that Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, is trying to blame Beijing and deflect from the shortcomings of his own response to the pandemic. In a matter of weeks, the US has become the country the worst hit by the pandemic in the world, in large part due to the Trump administration’s inadequate response.

Ambassador Cheng echoed that belief.

“Some guys are attempting to blame China for their problems and deflect the attention,” the Chinese diplomat said, referring to Australian politicians. “It’s a kind of pandering to the assertions that are made by some forces in Washington.”


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