The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said the Chinese Embassy in Canberra broke protocol by publicly revealing “purported details” of “official diplomatic exchanges” between Ambassador Cheng Jingye and DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson on April 28.
This latest episode by the Chinese regime follows Australia cautioning China against attempts at “economic coercion” as Australia rallies international support for an independent investigation into the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) handling of the CCP virus pandemic.
In response to the embassy’s statement, DFAT released a statement of its own but did not confirm any details:
The department will not respond by itself breaching the long standing diplomatic courtesies and professional practices to which it will continue to adhere.
How foreign missions engage the Australian media are matters for those missions.
For its part, the department will continue to pursue Australia’s interests with all foreign missions according to the highest standards of professionalism, courtesy and respect for our counterparts.
The release by the embassy is an escalation of events that began on April 26 when Cheng said in an interview with Australian Financial Review that if Australia continues to probe into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, the “Chinese public” may avoid Australian products and universities.
It is not clear what kind of exchange occurred, but earlier in the day on April 28, Senator Simon Birmingham confirmed on ABC Radio AM to host Sabra Lane that the “government had discussions with the ambassador” following his comments to the press.
After Lane asked about the Ambassador’s response, and whether he was called into Parliament House to have the discussion or if it was by telephone call, Birmingham offered only: “[Jingye] had a discussion with the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”
After Lane pressed for the ambassador’s response, Birmingham said, “Look that’s for the ambassador to choose to make public … But our government is very clear that we’ve seen enormous loss of life around the world—hundreds of thousands of people—huge economic disruption to billions of lives across the planet. And of course, that warrants transparent investigation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
A growing number of ministers and senators have voiced their support for the international investigation.