The exchange of words between China and Australia continues following the latter’s call for an investigation into the origins, spread and global response on the COVID-19 outbreak. Beijing is now accusing Canberra of “petty tricks.”
On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the government’s decision for a probe on the coronavirus pandemic. Morrison said the government will “pursue what is a very reasonable and sensible course of action.”
“Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again,” Morrison told reporters.
The prime minister also clarified that the probe will not be targeted at China. This, after Beijing officials and local media have slammed the country for pushing for an investigation, repeatedly denying any wrongdoing during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday, Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye warned that Chinese locals might start avoiding Australian products and universities after learning of its plans.
“Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’” Cheng told The Australian Financial Review.
Hu Xijin, editor of the state-run Global Times, also called out Canberra for “making trouble.”
“After the epidemic, we need to have more risk awareness when doing business with Australia and also when we send our children to study there,” Hu wrote in a post on Weibo, notes The Guardian.
“Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.”
On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy also claimed Australian officials leaked the details of a phone call between the head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Cheng.
“The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” an embassy spokesperson said.
Despite these claims, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters believes a probe is the logical next step to help solve the outbreak and avoid facing another pandemic.
“It’s very hard to conceive of there not being a desire by every country in world, including the country of origin, for an investigation to find out how this happened,” Peters said.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the world, with 3.2 million confirmed cases globally and 228,000 deaths, according to Worldometer data. Australia COVID-19 cases is at 6,752 with 91 deaths.
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