Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said it is ‘absurd’ how he has been labeled ‘China phobic’ by his opposition as Sydney prepares to hold an important by-election.
Turnbull has defended himself after Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Bill Shorten said he had ‘China phobia’ and ALP candidate in the Bennelong by-election, Kristina Keneally, said the PM was fueling suspicions of Asian Australians.
The political name calling comes in the wake of concerns over interference by China’s ruling Communist Party in Australian affairs which resulted in the federal government recently introducing tougher foreign interference laws.
The name calling also follows the resignation of ALP senator Sam Dastyari who resigned this week due to media reports over his alleged links with political donor Huang Xiangmo, a wealthy Chinese property developer with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
.@billshortenmp: @TurnbullMalcolm would be well-advised now to hop off the China-phobia horse and get on with the business of growing opportunities for Australians. MORE: https://t.co/h2PkHqtZOK pic.twitter.com/xWTUFRYHm1
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 12, 2017
Such inferences have also been made as the Sydney electoral area of Bennelong – where Chinese Australians make up 20 percent of the voters – is to have a crucial by-election this Saturday.
Turnbull said his political opposition’s claims were “desperate and absurd,” citing his own family’s links with Chinese in Australia through his daughter-in-law, Yvonne Wang, reported The Australian.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) June 29, 2016
“To suggest that somebody whose granddaughter is one of those one million Australians of Chinese ancestry is anything other than a friend of Chinese people is absurd, completely absurd,” Turnbull said.
“It just shows you how desperate they are.”
The prime minister said it was unimaginable to think of his country without its Australians of Chinese ancestry.
“We are the most successful multicultural society in the world,” Turnbull said.
“Our ties with China are strong, and they are stronger all the time and they are basically built by people-to-people links and family links,” he said.
.@pwafork: This isn't about China, this is about @samdastyari, and I think Bennelong voters will see through this risible attempt by @KKeneally to flip the issue. MORE: https://t.co/haVQVYb0zp #Credlin pic.twitter.com/ic4BKF3xuk
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 11, 2017
Turnbull told the broadsheet newspaper that the by-election would be a tough but vital fight.
“The polls are very tight, it is a tight race. We’ve always said that,” he said.
“There is a very high cost in voting Labor in Bennelong because if Labor were to win in Bennelong, then Bill Shorten would become very close to becoming prime minister.”
The latest newspoll shows a 50-50 split in two-party preferred votes, reported SBS.
Last week, Turnbull said he will not back away from standing up for his country’s interests following criticism from Beijing over earlier comments made about reports of Chinese interference in Australia’s affairs.
Turnbull rejected criticism from China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang who said he was pandering to “irresponsible reports by some Australian media.” A day earlier, Turnbull said he had taken seriously media reports of Chinese meddling in Australian politics and the broader community.
“We are strongly dissatisfied with those remarks and [have] lodged stern representations with the Australian side,” said Geng. In response to Geng’s comments, Turnbull said he would “stand up” for Australians.
Australia's ambassador to China has been summoned to the Chinese Foreign Ministry to discuss proposed new laws to stop foreign countries trying to influence our politics. More: https://t.co/SIDts2R8oJ #7News pic.twitter.com/NxD38tsQYL
— 7 News Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) December 13, 2017
Turnbull’s China-phobia denial comes as an open letter in Chinese has been doing the rounds on social media calling upon Chinese Australians not to vote for his party’s candidate, John Alexander.
Fairfax Media said that the author of the letter is unknown but it has been shared by Yan Zehua, an Australian citizen who lives in Sydney. The report said that Yan is the vice president of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, an organization associated with the United Front Work Department – a political lobbying and propaganda agency for the Chinese Communist Party.
Huang , the property developer at the center of the headline-grabbing donation scandal that brought down Dastyari, was until recently the president of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China.
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