Australia Flags Concern Over 'ham-fisted' China Diplomats

Australia flags concern over 'ham-fisted' China diplomats

Sydney, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 18th Jun, 2024) Australia voiced concern Tuesday about the "ham-fisted" actions of two Chinese diplomats at a media event, tarnishing a highly touted visit in which Premier Li Qiang has sought to celebrate trade and friendship.

China's second-most powerful man has posed in front of giant pandas, warmly toasted Australian wine, and highlighted the need to peacefully work through "differences" during his rare trip to Australia.

But the carefully choreographed tour briefly unravelled during a signing ceremony inside Australia's parliament on Monday, when two Chinese diplomats appeared to shadow high-profile Australian journalist Cheng Lei.

Cheng returned to Australia in October last year after three years detained in China on opaque spying charges and has spoken unflinchingly of her bleak prison conditions.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese criticised the "ham-fisted" behaviour, saying on Tuesday Australia had "followed up with the Chinese embassy to express our concern".

"When you look at the footage, it was a pretty clumsy attempt, frankly, by a couple of people to stand in between where the cameras were and where Cheng Lei was sitting," he told national broadcaster ABC.

"And Australian officials intervened, as they should have, to ask the Chinese officials who were there at the press conference to move."

Footage showed two Chinese diplomats hovering next to a seated Cheng, repeatedly ignoring requests to move from animated Australian officials.

Cheng said they "went to great lengths to block me from the cameras".

"And I'm guessing that's to prevent me from saying something or doing something that they think would be a bad look," she told Sky news Australia.

"But that itself is a bad look."

Albanese had told Li in closed-door talks just hours earlier that "foreign interference wasn't acceptable in Australia's political system".