Trade minister rejects China racism claim

Colin Brinsden
China has urged its citizens not to travel to Australia, claiming an increase in racist attacks

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has rejected China's assertion that Australians have attacked Chinese people during the coronavirus pandemic.

China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has advised its citizens to avoid travelling to Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence against Chinese people in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There has been an alarming increase recently in acts of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the ministry said in a statement on Friday evening.

It did not give any specific examples of such discrimination or violence.

"We reject China's assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact," Senator Birmingham told AAP in a statement on Saturday.

"Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them."

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said it was rather a moot point as there was no travel between China and Australia at present because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also believed the allegations were made on "false information".

"There hasn't been a wave of outbreaks of violence against Chinese people," he said in Queanbeyan, NSW.

This is the latest is a series of frictions between the two countries.

The Chinese statement came less than 24 hours after the Australian government tightened is foreign investment rules.

However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pointed out that China makes up only a little over five per cent of the $4 trillion foreign investment in Australia.

China last month slapped a tariff on imports of Australian barley, as well as blocking beef imports from four Australian suppliers because of labelling issues, coinciding with Australia calling for an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 virus in China.

Senator Birmingham said it was unfortunate that Australia had to close its borders with China to protect the country from COVID-19 as it spread from Wuhan.

"This decision was criticised by the Chinese government at the time, but it proved to be a critical decision in keeping Australians safe from the devastation faced by much of the rest of the world," he said.

"Australia is enjoying world leading success in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 and, when the health advice allows, we look forward to again welcoming visitors from all backgrounds to our safe and hospitable nation."

However, Labor's Jason Clare believed there had been a spike in racist abuse during the pandemic and hoped Foreign Minister Marise Payne was talking to China.

"I hope that she's on the phone talking to the Chinese government about this as well as all of the other issues that seem to be a problem at the moment," Mr Clare told ABC television on Saturday.

Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski said clearly, Australia was going through a more strained time with China than it has before.

"I think diplomacy is best done quietly and not done publicly and with a foghorn," he told ABC television.

"I think that there have been unfortunate incidents where people have been blaming members of the Chinese community for the pandemic in Australia, so that's something that we need to resolve."