Australia exchange blows with China over virus

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Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison

Australia and China have exchanged another salvo over the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, told a radio station on Thursday he would not be intimidated or coerced into dampening his criticism of China after Beijing said its students should reconsider choosing to study in the country.

“We are an open-trading nation, mate, but I’m never going to trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes,” Morrison told radio station 2GB on Thursday.

In response, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said its warning to students were based on facts and called on Australia to take measures to safeguard Chinese citizens’ safety, Reuters reports.

China has in recent weeks banned Australian beef imports and imposed tariffs on Australian barley.

The warning for students followed a similar warning last week from Beijing for Chinese tourists to avoid Australia. In both cases, officials in Beijing said the warnings were due to racist attacks against Asians during the pandemic.

“That’s rubbish. It’s a ridiculous assertion and it’s rejected. That’s not a statement that’s been made by the Chinese leadership,” Morrison said in a separate interview on 3AW.