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China’s ambassador to Australia heckled as he calls for closer ties

Beijing and Canberra should restore ties after the election of a Labor government, the Chinese envoy to Australia said in a rare public speech that was repeatedly interrupted by human rights protesters.

Xiao Qian, who was appointed China’s ambassador in January, was questioned about fraying ties between the two countries, trade tariffs and the plight of Australian citizens detained in China after he delivered an audience at the University of Technology on Friday. sydney.

The ambassador said the election of Anthony Albanese’s government presents an “opportunity for a possible improvement in bilateral relations” after a tense period between the Asia-Pacific countries.

But protesters condemned the university for hosting Xiao and interrupted his reception on eight separate occasions to express their anger and dismay at the Chinese government’s policies toward Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

A protester dressed in a Chinese Red Guard uniform was refused entry, while other protesters were removed from the hall after holding up signs or yelling at Xiao.

Drew Pavlou, an anti-Chinese communist party activist, said Xiao — whose speech was carried by national broadcaster ABC — had been given a platform to defend Beijing’s actions.

“This was actually a money laundering exercise,” Pavlou told the Financial Times. “I have a hard time understanding why they aren’t treated like outcasts. You would never expect the Russian ambassador to roll out the red carpet so late.”

Tensions between the countries have increased in recent years after Australia banned the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment in 5G networks and called for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, prompting an outraged response from Beijing. caused.

Xiao described the Huawei ban as “the first shot that harmed our normal relationships”.

China responded by imposing punitive tariffs on Australian imports, including wine and barley, and a ban on Australian coal. The Chinese navy has also been accused of acting aggressively against Australian aircraft in the South China Sea and close to the Australian coast.

Since his election, the Albanian has called on Beijing to end tariffs and criticized China’s military actions. His administration has also taken steps to improve relations with countries in the Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

As a sign of diplomatic thaw, Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles met his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Singapore this month.

China remains Australia’s largest trading partner and Xiao said tariffs were “a matter of complexity”.

Michael Fullilove, head of the Lowy Institute think tank, said Albanians should remain “strong in China” even as the government developed a more balanced foreign policy than Morrison’s “one-dimensional” approach.

“We must cooperate with China when we can, disagree when we have to and always stand our ground,” he said.

Fullilove added that a Lowy Institute poll to be published this month shows that the number of Australians who trusted China had fallen to 12 percent this year, from 16 percent last year and 52 percent four years ago.

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