A senior Chinese diplomat has warned that people in Australia who "choose to make enemies of China" will be "cast aside in history".

Speaking at a Lunar New Year dinner in Canberra on Monday night, China's Deputy Head of Mission Wang Xining defended the country's handling of COVID-19 and hit out at media organisations in particular, saying there were "some people in Australia who choose to make enemies to sustain a living" and that they had "brainwashed" the public with "negative portraits of China".

"History will prove that it is wise and visionary to be China's friends, and your children and grandchildren would be proud of you to be China's friends and they will benefit from the relationship with China," Mr Wang said, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the Chinese Embassy website.

"Those who deliberately vilify China and sabotage the friendship between our two countries and do damage to our long-term friendship and benefits out of their sectoral or selfish interest will be (cast) aside in history.

"Their children will be ashamed of mentioning their names in the history."

Mr Wang, who last made public remarks more than six months ago with a rare speech at the National Press Club, was hosted by the Australia-China Business Council at Ruby Chinese in Dickson, a restaurant once owned by movie star Jackie Chan's father.

The diplomat thanked the business leaders for their help during the pandemic, particularly in securing personal protective equipment when China was in "urgent need" in January and February last year.

"To our disappointment, what the media cared and focused (on) was the so-called hoarding of PPE by China-related companies which led to certain shortage of PPE at that time. These claims ran rampant at certain times," Mr Wang said.

"However, it finally turned out all these claims were not true, and some of the reports amounts to libelling and were brought to lawsuit for defamation. But the damage has been done, the image of China's friends in Australia was severely harmed and smeared."

Mr Wang said it was becoming "difficult to be China's friend in Australia", saying that only politicians who took a "stern face" against China could "win the heart of the Australian population".

"Currently, the friends of China are given a nickname 'panda-hugger'," he said. "It used to be a word of appreciation but now it carries derogatory meanings. It seems that being friendly to China, to be a friend of China becomes a sin and mistake in Australia."

In his National Press Club remarks last August, Mr Wang accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of stabbing China in the back by calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus and insisted it did not originate in Wuhan.

Speaking at the dinner on Monday, Mr Wang addressed the claims of Australian virus expert Professor Dominic Dwyer, who was part of the World Health Organisation investigation team which recently returned from the virus epicentre.

While the WHO team did not definitively declare China as the source of the virus, following his return Prof Dwyer said he believed COVID-19 "started in China". He appeared to push back on the Chinese government's claim that the virus started overseas, saying the evidence was "actually very limited" and "not really very good".

But Mr Wang said Prof Dwyer was "misquoted" and highlighted an article he wrote for The Conversation, in which the expert said the frozen food hypothesis had not been ruled out and that it was "extremely unlikely" the virus escaped from a lab.

"Murdoch's News Corporation, who claimed that the virus must (have leaked) from a biological institute from Wuhan, said nothing about Mr Dwyer's interview and his impression about this trip," Mr Wang said.

He said that in the face of COVID-19, the best strategy was to "step up our collaboration" but that collaboration had come under "a series of suspicions from a small number" of unnamed people.

"Based on my observation, most of those people are siphoning off Australia's financial coffer, and they squander on the cornucopia which is the hard-won product of the majority of Australian labour force," he said.

"They abused the power in their hands to strike hard on China's friends in Australia, who were working so hard to enhance Australia's economic power, improve people's living standard, and store potential for future development. When these people were barking loud, our friends had to bite the bullet."

Drone footage shows blindfolded and shackled Uighurs in Xinjiang. Picture: YouTube
Drone footage shows blindfolded and shackled Uighurs in Xinjiang. Picture: YouTube

 

Mr Wang said the "excuse for such suspicion is China's threats to Australian sovereignty and security, which is totally ridiculous", claiming there was "no one single case" that had been "substantiated or supported by evidence".

He also obliquely addressed China's alleged genocide and shocking human rights abuses against the Uighur ethnic minority in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

"Maybe you don't fully agree with our model of governance and administration, but at least you respect and understand the reason behind our development path and model of governance," he said.

"I think you are as bewildered as I am that the impression of China is so different between what you get in Australia and in China."

He cited Jerry Grey, a British-born Australian citizen living in China who has appeared in Chinese state propaganda denying claims of ethnic cleansing.

"Recently I watched a video on YouTube, there is an Australian uncle Jerry Grey, he and his wife went on a bicycle ride in Xinjiang," Mr Wang said. "After he came back, he told his friends about what he saw and experienced in Xinjiang, and few people would believe in him."

Mr Wang again blamed the media, saying he had been told by one participant of the Colombo Plan - an intergovernmental study exchange program designed to strengthen relationships in the region - that his one-year stay in Shanghai was a "life-changing experience".

"But so many people in Australia, unlike you, haven't gotten the opportunity to visit China," he said.

"If these people are immersed by those negative portraits of China by the major media outlets and brainwashed by the vulgarised and simplified political slogans, how would they understand China and agree with your assessment and impression of China."

He added, "We have a saying that goes, those who wrong people know better than the victims how wronged they are, and I believe those who vilified China know better than the Chinese people why they vilify China."

frank.chung@news.com.au

Originally published as Chinese diplomat's warning to Australia



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