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Over the past few months relations between Australia and China have deteriorated, after Australia’s foreign minister called for an independent global inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Beijing responded furiously to the calls, accusing Canberra of launching a political attack against China and appeared to punish the country by limiting access to its markets.
Beijing’s latest perceived form or retaliation came on Friday, when China urged its citizens not to travel to Australia.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said the move was in response to a spike in racist attacks during the coronavirus crisis.
The ministry said in a statement on Friday evening: “There has been a significant increase recently in acts of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ministry advises Chinese tourists to raise their safety awareness and avoid traveling to Australia.”
The statement did not give any specific examples of discrimination or racist attacks.
The Australian Government has rejected the suggestion there has been an increase in racist attacks in the country.
Deputy prime minister Michael McCormak said: “There hasn’t been a wave of outbreaks of violence against Chinese people.
“I don’t know why this has been stated, I don’t know what was in the thinking of the organisation or the person who made the statement, all I can say is the statement is not true.”
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Senator Simon Birmingham also hit out at the notice, and said: “We reject China’s assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact.
“Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them.”
The advise against travel to Australia is the latest in a series of frictions between the two countries.
Tensions first deteriorated when Canberra led calls for an independent global inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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In response, Cheng Jingye, China’s ambassador to Australia accused Canberra of “obviously teaming up with those forces in Washington to launch a political campaign against China”.
He also warned that its citizens may think twice about purchasing Australian goods in the future.
A leaked phone call between Mr Jingye and Australia’s top Foreign Office said Canberra was guilty of ideological bias and playing political games.
In a perceived retaliation, China hiked tariffs on Australian barley and banned imports of beef due to labelling issues.
China is the number one market for Australian beef, accounting for about 30 percent of exports.
It’s also the biggest foreign buyer of Australian barley.
But Beijing has denied its measures against Australian trade were related to the calls for the international investigation.
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