An iron ore mogul was questioned after he appeared to help a Chinese communist official gatecrash an Australian public health announcement.
Andrew Forrest invited the Chinese consul general in Melbourne to address a press conference about the Fortescue Metals Group chairman donating 10 million COVID-19 testing kits from China to the Department of Health’s national medical stockpile.
Donation turns political
Long Zhou used the opportunity to criticise the Federal Government’s request for an independent investigation into how China’s coronavirus pandemic began.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has demanded that the Chinese regime comes clean, so the impact of the next outbreak could be minimised. However, Chinese officials deny there has been a cover up and maintain only 4600 of its entire 1.3 billion population has died since January.
“The Chinese government has released information related to the COVID-19 in open, transparent and responsible manner,” Long said according to the Seven Network. “We are also doing everything possible to help Australia.”
When the consul general started taking media questions the Health Minister Greg Hunt intervened, saying he did not know the diplomat would attend, and asking journalists to continue their interviews outside as he left the press conference early.
Former Resources Minister Matt Canavan and Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security chair Andrew Hastie later slammed Forrest for helping the Chinese regime pull a media stunt.
“This guy drops out of the sky in his private jet and enables the Chinese Communist Party to ambush a Commonwealth press conference,” Hastie said according to the Australian Associated Press. “Yeah, we are not happy.”
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Forrest defended his invitation to Long as a “gesture of appreciation and friendship between our two great countries”.
The mining magnate previously expressed solidarity with the Chinese regime, used his company to donate $1 million to supplier Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation to build 300 hospital beds in China, and invited all Australians to support the Asian nation.
“Australia’s relationship with China is multi-layered and complex, however as good friends, neighbours and trading partners, it is pretty simple – the Chinese people deserve our support,” he said in a public statement.
“While the worst news may still be ahead of us, China will recover and has demonstrated its commitment to protect its people and the citizens of the world … we must appreciate the country’s sacrifices and stand ready to support China however we can, for the benefit of both our peoples.”