Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong. Picture: AAP
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong. Picture: AAP

China ramps up COVID-19 pressure as Wong calls for change

Chinese diplomats urged the German Government to make 'positive statements' on how Beijing was handling the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people worldwide.

The German interior ministry said in a statement that officials had been contacted by Chinese officials in a response to a request by Green Party MP Margarete Bause.

"The German Government is aware of individual contacts made by Chinese diplomats with the aim of affecting positive public statements on the coronavirus management by the People's Republic of China," the ministry said in a letter seen by Reuters.

"The Federal Government has not complied with these requests."

 

Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The coronavirus pandemic is believed to have spread from a wet market in China. Picture: Supplied
Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The coronavirus pandemic is believed to have spread from a wet market in China. Picture: Supplied

 

The comments in the letter dated April 22 were first reported by a German newspaper, which also wrote the Chinese embassy in Berlin had rejected the report as untrue and irresponsible.

China has faced intense scrutiny for its response to the coronavirus crisis, which is believed to have begun in a wet market in the city of Wuhan.

 

The pandemic has killed more than 200,000 people across the globe, with infections rising to almost three million. It's sparked global lockdowns and wreaked havoc on economies, with growing calls for an investigation into the virus' origins and how China handled the initial outbreak.

 

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong has backed an independent inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus. Picture: AAP
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong has backed an independent inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus. Picture: AAP

Labor's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong told the ABC she supported "an independent inquiry into the origin of the virus."

Ms Wong said Australia needed to rethink its relationship with China as the nation became "much more assertive".

"We need to rethink how it is that we approach the relationship while standing up for our sovereignty, our interests and our values," Ms Wong said.

She said disengagement with China wasn't an option, and added Australia needed to more forward-looking in its relationship with the Asian superpower.

"China thinks of relationships and strategy in terms of 30 years. Often, Australian governments look to one electoral term," she said.

"So instead of three years, we should also be thinking about 30 years."

Foreign Minister Marise Payne raised the idea of an international inquiry a week ago, calling for greater transparency on how COVID-19 originated and how it was subsequently handled.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has also backed these calls, telling Sky News on Sunday that it would provide reassurance into the future.

"We want more transparency within the communist party of China in the way they have dealt with this virus issue," Mr Dutton told Sky News.

"If not just to understand how we can defeat this threat into the future when you have got these wildlife wet markets where the flu may have originated from.

"We need a level of reassurance that's not there at the moment," he said.

But China has hit back, describing the independent review proposed by Australia as "political manoeuvring".

Originally published as China ramps up COVID-19 pressure as Wong calls for change



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