Chinese officials are threatening consequences if Australia launches an investigation into Beijing’s handling of the Chinese virus outbreak.
According to The Hill, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye said Australia’s push for an inquiry into the origins of the virus could result in Chinese citizens being encouraged by the authoritarian regime to boycott Australian exports and products.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called the Chinese threats “economic coercion” and continued to call for an investigation into the early handling of the Chinese virus outbreak, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan.
“Australia has made a principled call for an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unprecedented global crisis with severe health, economic and social impacts,” she reportedly said. “We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global co-operation.”
The call by Australia to launch an independent investigation echoes criticisms by the U.S. that Beijing mishandled the coronavirus outbreak from its beginnings, The Hill reports.
The U.S. has accused Chinese authorities of covering up the extent of the outbreak and alleged that Beijing failed to warn the world early enough about the coming pandemic.
China accounts for one quarter of all Australian exports totalling $153 billion in 2018-19.