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China Warns Australia: Drop Coronavirus Probe or Pay an Economic Price

The Australian government’s call for China to explain its bungled handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic could spark a boycott by Chinese consumers, who may no longer travel and study in Australia or buy major exports including beef and wine.

That was the stark warning delivered Monday by Ambassador Cheng Jingye via an interview published in the Australian Financial Review.

The ambassador said Australia’s inquiry push was “dangerous” and destined to fail, adding to previous criticism from Beijing, which portrayed Canberra as unblinking lackeys of the U.S. in the Pacific.
“I think in the long term… if the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think ‘Why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China? The tourists may have second thoughts’,” he said.

“The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send our kids.”

Education is Australia’s third biggest export and is worth more than $30 billion to the economy every year.

The ambassador refused to comment on whether key exports such as iron ore, coal and gas would be similarly affected by perceived anti-China sentiment.

“Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” Cheng said.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt maintains an independent inquiry was in the interests of Australia and the world.

“We’ve seen three million people infected and over 200,000 lives lost so of course there has to be an independent review,” Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“To have a major global, cataclysmic event and not to review it would seem very odd and very strange and so ultimately we have to take the steps that are in not just the interests of Australia, but in the interests of common humanity,” Hunt added.

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