China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has advised the public 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, local time.
It did not give any specific examples of such discrimination or violence.
Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has rejected China’s claims, saying there is no factual basis for the country’s damning recommendation.
"Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them," he told AAP Saturday morning.
He 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."
There have been several anecdotal reports of people of Asian appearance in Australia being targeted in racist attacks throughout the pandemic.
In one instance, two teen girls were allegedly harassed and spat at by another woman who was filmed hurling abuse and linking the pair to the deadly virus.
A young Chinese family living in Melbourne was also targeted in two separate incidents at their home – one leaving their garage door covered in graffiti saying “COVID-19 China Die”.
Another man was singled out by a stranger after buying toilet paper in Sydney, being told “hey watch out, you’ve got toilet paper made in China. It might give you bum rash”.
Remarks of this nature prompted the NSW government to rollout a campaign called Stop Public Threats to clamp down on xenophobia that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis.
Asians of various backgrounds have said they have been harassed since the outbreak of the coronavirus, including in the United States.
China issued a warning to tourists travelling to the US earlier this year after some said they were mistreated in connection with the outbreak.
The most recent warning urging Chinese tourists to stay away from Australia came just hours after Scott Morrison announced a series of changes to the country’s foreign investment rules.
The prime minister argued the move was not part of an ugly and on going back-and-forth between Australia and China, which was sparked following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.