The Chinese embassy in Canberra has accused Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of being a mouthpiece for the United States, in a withering criticism describing calls by Australian politicians for greater scrutiny of China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as “pitiful”.
- Peter Dutton had called for China to be more “transparent” about the COVID-19 pandemic, joining a chorus of officials
- Chinese authorities said “certain Australian politicians are keen to parrot what Americans have asserted”
- A spokesperson for the country’s embassy in Canberra said this exposes the former’s “ignorance and bigotry”
In an interview last week, Mr Dutton cited US State Department comments it had “documentation” showing how the virus had spread — but noted he had not seen the documents referred to by officials.
The Home Affairs Minister joined the chorus of officials demanding China be more “transparent” about the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing the families of the dozens of Australians who had died after being infected deserved answers.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask — it would certainly be demanded of us, if Australia was at the epicentre of this virus making its way into society,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.
“I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information, so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened because we don’t want it to be repeated.
“And, we know that this is not the first instance of a virus being spread from the wildlife wet markets and we need to be honest about that.”
Chinese officials have now hit back, taking aim at Mr Dutton for making such claims, especially after Mr Dutton conceded he had not seen the US Government’s evidence.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra made the comments in response to a question from the Global Times, a Chinese state media outlet known for taking a hardline in response to criticism of Beijing.
“What’s puzzling is without having seen the documentation, why he can’t wait to ask China to be ‘more transparent’?” the spokesperson said.
“Obviously he must have also received some instructions from Washington requiring him to cooperate with the US in its propaganda war against China.”
“It is well known that recently some people in the US including high-level officials have been spreading anti-China ‘information virus’. Their aim is to shift blame and deflect attention by smearing China.”
The embassy argued it was indicative of a broader issue.
“These days, certain Australian politicians are keen to parrot what those Americans have asserted and simply follow them in staging political attacks on China,” the spokesperson said.
Over the weekend, Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s backing of an inquiry into the coronavirus crisis was also hit with a stern rebuke by Chinese officials, who argued her comments were “not based on facts”.
More than 2.4 million people worldwide have been now been infected with COVID-19, and more than 160,000 people have died from the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the source remains unknown but “all available evidence” suggests it has a natural animal origin and “most probably had its ecological reservoir in bats”.
The coronavirus was first identified in humans in Wuhan, China last December.
The United Nations health body said it was still not possible to categorically state how the first people caught it.
“At this stage, it is not possible to determine precisely how humans in China were initially infected with SARS-CoV-2,” a statement on the WHO website read.
By political reporters Anna Henderson and Matthew Doran