Australia Rejects Chinese ‘Economic Coercion’ Threat Amid Planned Virus Probe

April 27, 2020 Updated: April 30, 2020

SYDNEY—Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has cautioned China against attempts at “economic coercion” as Australia pushes for an investigation into the CCP virus pandemic.

Australia last week called for all members of the World Health Organization (WHO) to support an independent review into the origins and spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, and is lobbying world leaders.

Payne said in a statement on April 27 that Australia had made a “principled call” for an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Epoch Times Photo
People are waiting to be tested for the CCP virus at the Wuhan No. 8 Hospital in Wuhan, China on April 10, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

“We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global cooperation,” Payne said.

China’s foreign ministry retaliated against Australia’s proposal. Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review on Monday that the “Chinese public” could avoid Australian products and universities.

China is the largest export market for Australian wine and beef. During strained diplomatic relations with China in 2018, Australian wine faced import delays in China and some Australian beef exports were also previously suspended for a period.

The Chinese embassy in Australia has previously warned Chinese students about what it said were safety risks in traveling to Australia.

Payne said an “honest assessment” of the pandemic would seek to strengthen the WHO’s role.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang dismissed calls for an investigation during a daily briefing in Beijing, though not commenting specifically about Australia.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus has infected 2.97 million people worldwide and killed more than 205,000, a Reuters tally shows. However, these numbers may be higher as world leaders and experts have spread doubts about Chinese authorities’ accuracy in reporting CCP virus numbers.

By Kirsty Needham. Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.