Peter Dutton: China accuses home affairs minister of ‘shocking’ and ‘malicious’ slur

Minister says Australia’s issue is with the Communist Party of China, not the Chinese-Australian community

The Guardian
Date: 11 Oct 2019
By: Ben Doherty and Melissa Davey

The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, has launched a wide-ranging attack on the Chinese

The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, says Australia needs to have a ‘frank conversation’ over China’s global influence. Photograph: Darren England/AAP
Communist party, accusing it of engineering a series of cyber-attacks on Australian targets, stealing intellectual property and muzzling free speech.

The comments prompted a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government overnight, with China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, telling reporters during a press conference that he hoped “Australia will reject the cold war mentality and bias, and work to advance bilateral relations and mutual trust”.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy issued a statement saying: “We categorically reject Mr Dutton’s irrational accusations against China, which are shocking and baseless.”

While drawing a clear distinction between “the amazing Chinese diaspora community in Australia” and the Chinese government, Dutton said Australia needed to have a “frank conversation” over China’s global influence: its infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative, expansionism in the South China Sea and growing military and aid presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Dutton’s comments are, by some margin, the strongest criticism of the Chinese government by a serving Australian minister.

The Chinese embassy described Dutton’s comments as “anti-China rhetoric”.

“We strongly condemn his malicious slur on the Communist Party of China, which constitutes an outright provocation to the Chinese people,” the embassy statement said. “Such ridiculous rhetoric severely harms the mutual trust between China and Australia and betrays the common interests of the two peoples.”

Dutton said China’s actions on the global stage often conflicted with Australian values and were incompatible with democratic forms of government.

“We have a very important trading relationship with China, incredibly important, but we’re not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced,” Dutton said. “We’re not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we’re not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into.

“Our issue, as I’ve said before, is not with the Chinese people, not with the amazing Chinese diaspora community that we have here in Australia. My issue is with the Communist Party of China and their policies to the extent that they’re inconsistent with our own values.

“In a democracy like ours, we encourage freedom of speech, freedom of expression, thought, and if that’s being impinged, if people are operating outside of the law, then whether they’re from China or from any other country, we have a right to call that out.”