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Australia's top diplomat sounds warning about rocky relations with China

One of Australia’s top diplomats has sounded a warning about the nation’s rocky relationship with China.  

­Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson said it was now more important than ever to stand up to the Asian powerhouse.   

‘Australia should, Australia must, Australia is, standing up for its interests because if we don’t we are on a very slippery slope,’ she told The Australian.  

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson, 58, (pictured above) has issued a stern warning about Australia's strained relationship with China

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson, 58, (pictured above) has issued a stern warning about Australia’s strained relationship with China 

Ms Adamson warned that Australia needed to stand up against China to protect its interests from the assertive nation (Scott Morrison and Chinese president Xi Jinping pictured)

Ms Adamson warned that Australia needed to stand up against China to protect its interests from the assertive nation (Scott Morrison and Chinese president Xi Jinping pictured) 

Ms Adamson said confronting China amid the coronavirus crisis had prompted Australia’s most difficult diplomatic challenge in a generation. 

The 59-year-old, who was Australia’s ambassador in Beijing­ from 2011 to 2015, explained the Asian nation was becoming more assertive.       

‘We’ve seen China seeking to assert itself in this region, in the Indo-Pacific and globally, in ways that suits its interests but don’t suit the interests of countries like­Australia,’ she said.

Ms Adamson said Australians wanted ‘a peaceful, stable, prosperous region’ and the government would not tolerate any interference with these ideals.  

Bill Birtles (pictured) from the ABC and Michael Smith from the Australian Financial Review returned to Sydney on Tuesday after a five-day diplomatic stand-off with China

Bill Birtles (pictured) from the ABC and Michael Smith from the Australian Financial Review returned to Sydney on Tuesday after a five-day diplomatic stand-off with China 

Mr Birtles is seen at Sydney airport on Tuesday following the frightening rush to leave China

Mr Birtles is seen at Sydney airport on Tuesday following the frightening rush to leave China

She warned that democratic institutions Australians take for granted, like the legal system and parliament, were ‘at stake’.  

‘We need to make sure our institutions are strong and that we can defend ourselves. And this is where the role of diplomacy comes into play,’ Ms Adamson explained. 

She said Australia needed to ‘take action’ to counter the ‘direct challenge’ posed by China’s assertion and aggression.  

The DFAT secretary also said the narrow escape of two Australian journalists from China was the latest example of ‘difficult issues’ between the two countries.   

Bill Birtles from the ABC and Michael Smith from the Australian Financial Review returned to Sydney on Tuesday after a five-day diplomatic stand-off.  

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews troops from a car during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews troops from a car during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Government travel advice website Smartraveller (pictured) was updated on 7 July to warn Aussies they face the risk of arbitrary detention in China

Government travel advice website Smartraveller (pictured) was updated on 7 July to warn Aussies they face the risk of arbitrary detention in China 








Chinese police told the journalists they were people of interest after another Australian journalist and business anchor, Cheng Lei, was detained in Beijing.  

Mr Birtles and Mr Smith sheltered in Australian diplomatic compounds for days as their travel rights were revoked.

Consular officials eventually secured safe passage back to Australia after the pair agreed to be interviewed. 

The Australian government has advised all Australians not to travel to China, warning they could face arbitrary detention.   

Daily Mail Australia has contacted DFAT for comment. 

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