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China threat: Beijing ‘engaging in industrial scale intimidation,’ says Australian senator

China: Australia's relationship has been 'tested' says senator

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, made his remarks after senior Chinese official Lijian Zhao tweeted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a knife with blood on it to the throat of an Afghan child. The controversial post was an apparent reference to a report suggesting Australia’s special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan.

The incident highlights the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries, with Beijing taking a dim view of Canberra’s decision to increase defence spending by 40 percent, citing concerns over the South China Sea.

Mr Abetz told Express.co.uk: “Australia’s concerns have been conveyed to the Chinese Ambassador by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra and will be conveyed directly in Beijing through our Ambassador.

“The ball is firmly in China’s court. Australia is willing to engage in dialogue with China but in a manner that is respectful.”

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Asked to assess China’s motives, Mr Abetz added: “The CCP’s dictatorship’s actions, whilst hard to rationalise, appear to be motivated by their desire to intimidate any country seeking answers to COVID-19 or questioning their human rights record, or their repudiation of their commitment to the Hong Kongers.

“Australia is not alone in this regard. Countries such as Norway and Canada have had trade impositions placed upon them after these countries undertook activities which were not favoured by the CCP dictatorship.

“The CCP dictatorship’s actions indicate a combination of immaturity of how to conduct world affairs whilst engaging in industrial scale intimidating tactics.

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While Australia is physically and economically smaller than China, our heart, moral courage and integrity will prevail

Eric Abetz

“While Australia is physically and economically smaller than China, our heart, moral courage and integrity will prevail.”

Mr Abetz stressed the allegations against Australian soldiers which apparently triggered Zhao’s post were serious and would be “thoroughly investigated and dealt with according to Australian law, which includes the civilising principles of the rule of law and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise”.

Turning his attention to Beijing, he said: “There is no doubt that a communist dictatorship rules in China.

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“Xi Jinping has declared himself President for life.”

Referencing the plight of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province, he added: “The litany of human rights abuses, the recent crushing of dissent in Hong Kong, the one million of its citizens in concentration camps, the prisoners of conscience – be they pro-democracy activists, house Christians or Falun Gong practitioners and the oppressive, one-party system, not to mention numerous other indicators speak to the fact that it is a brutal dictatorship.

“The freedom-loving countries of the world need to unite and speak out against a nation that actively seeks to diminish the values we cherish, such as democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

“Countries need to reconsider their economic engagement with China and build economic self-sufficiency as much as possible, lest they face potential economic coercion or actions to undermine their nation’s sovereignty, as is evidenced recently in Australia but also in other nations.”

Speaking after Zhao’s post, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Australia is seeking an apology from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the Chinese government, for this outrageous post.

“We are also seeking its removal immediately and have also contacted Twitter to take it down immediately.”

However, a statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Canberra on Tuesday said: “The rage and roar of some Australian politicians and media is nothing but misreading of and overreaction to Mr Zhao’s tweet.”

China’s WeChat social media platform also blocked a message by Mr Morrison.

In his message, he defended Australia’s handling of a war crimes investigation into the actions of special forces in Afghanistan, and said Australia would deal with “thorny issues” in a transparent manner.

However, the post appeared to be blocked by Wednesday evening, with a note from the “Weixin Official Accounts Platform Operation Center” saying the content was unable to be viewed because it violated regulations.

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