China has responded to a new warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advising Australians of an increased chance of arbitrary detention in the communist country.
On Tuesday, DFAT’s Smartraveller warned foreigners in China have been detained for “endangering national security” and recommended those in China who wish to return to Australia to do so immediately.
In one of his more reserved responses to matters involving Australia in recent weeks, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said law-abiding Australians in China should have no concerns.
“There is no need to worry at all as long as they abide by laws and regulations,” he said.
He once again urged Australia to treat China matters in an “objective and fair manner” while calling on the Australian government to “do more” to improve the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.
“The Chinese government always protects the safety and legitimate rights and interests of foreign nationals in China.”
The warning from DFAT is the latest move from Australia in a prolonged and ugly back-and-forth in recent months between China and Australia.
Just last month in a similar warning, China warned its nationals over travel and study in Australia due to a rise in racist attacks.
In late June, Chinese-state media accused Australia of intensifying its espionage offensive against China, a claim Mr Zhao doubled down on, lambasting Australia and accusing the government of having “long crossed the line”.
Tabloid The Global Times, a renowned critic of Australia, warned China would crack down on Australian espionage operations.
DFAT’s warning to Australians appears to be a direct result of such warnings. Clive Hamilton, public ethics professor at Charles Sturt University and author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, fears “something nasty” for Australians in China.
“I think there is a far more sinister message that is being sent by the article in the Global Times,” he told ABC News 24.
“I think there's a real possibility that some Australians might be targeted. I'm quite worried about that.”
Diplomatic ties between the two countries continue to come under heavy pressure following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
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