The Chinese embassy has slammed government travel advice warning Australians they are at risk of “arbitrary detention” in China, labelling the advisory “disinformation” and “ridiculous”.
- New travel advice warns Australians they are at risk of being arrested in China for no reason
- The Chinese embassy says law-abiding Australians have nothing to worry about
- Tensions between Australia and China were already high
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued the new advice on Tuesday, directing it at Australians in mainland China.
It also said Chinese authorities had detained foreigners for “endangering national security”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, China’s embassy in Canberra fiercely criticised the warning.
“Foreigners in China, including the Australians, as long as they abide by the Chinese laws, have no need to worry at all.
“However those who engage in illegal activities, such as drug smuggling or espionage, will be dealt with according to the laws in China, as is the case in all other countries.”
The official statement came after China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday the Chinese Government “always protects foreigners’ human rights”.
“Any law-abiding citizen in China has nothing to worry about,” he said.
DFAT was already advising travellers not to travel to China — or anywhere overseas — because of the coronavirus pandemic. That advice has not changed.
Australians are also still banned from leaving the country for overseas travel unless they are granted an exemption by the Federal Government.
Advice further strains tense relationship
The statement is the latest angry missive to emerge from the Chinese embassy as relations between Australia and China continue to plummet.
China responded furiously when the Morrison Government pressed for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.
The push sparked a tit-for-tat with China, with Beijing urging its citizens not to travel to Australia due what it said was a spike in racism towards Chinese visitors.
The relationship has soured further since then, with the two nations at odds over trade, cyber attacks and espionage allegations, as well as Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
Canberra is anxious that Beijing could seek to engage in “hostage diplomacy” — arresting an Australian who it can then use as leverage in other disputes with the Morrison Government.
In late 2018 China detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, just weeks after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on charges filed in US courts.
The Canadian Government has accused the Chinese Government of trying to use the two men to blackmail it into freeing Ms Meng.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed the Government was “actively considering” offering safe haven to Hong Kongers in the wake of Beijing imposing controversial national security laws on the special administrative region.
Cabinet is expected to consider tearing up Australia’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong as Beijing’s crackdown on the city intensifies.