Australia yesterday said that it would not be intimidated by attempts at economic “coercion” after China threatened to undermine the multibillion-dollar flow of Chinese tourists and students to the country.
Beijing has issued warnings that Chinese should avoid Australia due to concerns about racist incidents targeting ethnic Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The comments were the latest salvo in a long-brewing diplomatic dispute between Australia and its largest trading partner.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday dismissed allegations of racist treatment of Chinese as “rubbish.”
“It’s a ridiculous assertion and it’s rejected,” he said during a radio interview.
“We have an important trading relationship with China and I’d like to see that continue,” Morrison said, adding that his government would “never be intimidated by threats” or “trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes.”
During the pandemic racism toward Asians has reportedly increased, the New South Wales Anti-discrimination Board has said.
Tensions between the two governments have grown steadily in the past few years as Australia has moved to counter Chinese moves to build its influence domestically and across the Pacific region.
Canberra has also angered Beijing by leading calls for an international probe into the origin and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.
China has since taken several steps targeting trade with Australia, including the attempts to discourage Chinese travelers, who represent the biggest groups of foreign tourists, and overseas students.
In other news, Australian officials yesterday warned supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement that they could be fined or arrested if they breach COVID-19 restrictions to take part in public protests.
Weekend rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities that drew tens of thousands of people had already delayed plans to further ease social distancing restrictions, Morrison said.
“We actually don’t know right now whether those rallies on the weekend may have caused outbreaks,” Morrison told 2GB Radio.
Victoria state officials confirmed that one of eight new cases of COVID-19 reported yesterday was a man who attended the Melbourne weekend rally.
Officials said the man was unlikely to have acquired the disease there, but was potentially infectious at the time.
More unauthorized protests are planned for today.
“We will start writing tickets of A$1,000 [US$695] and we can use all of our powers to move people on,” New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told 2GB Radio. “If you don’t move on, well then you’ll be arrested.”
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
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