China must pay for COVID-19, says former Liberal leader

 

Former Liberal leader Alexander Downer says China's coronavirus cover up must be stopped with an urgent independent investigation.

In an extraordinary hard line stance, Mr Downer has demanded western countries "ram home" to China that it was losing its "prestige" because of the coronavirus.

Former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer. Picture: AAP
Former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer. Picture: AAP

And he demanded that G7 countries, which include the UK, the United States, Japan, Italy, Canada, France and Germany, work together to stand up to China.

He said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was most likely able to patch together a strong stance once he had recovered from COVID-19.

Mr Downer drew a line in the sand during a Policy Exchange conference early on Wednesday Australian time.

"This coronavirus crisis is a huge blow to China's prestige. Ordinary people feel very strongly about the huge damage that has been done to us all as a result of what began in China," he said.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer in London. Picture: Supplied
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer in London. Picture: Supplied

 

Mr Downer said there were theories that it started in a wet market in Wuhan, or escaped from a science laboratory, that needed to be tested.

And he warned that China was risking its future trade with the world.

"This is a pretty rough thing to say but I think we need to ram that home to them, we need to make it perfectly clear that if any country wants to trade with the international community and engage with the international community they are extremely welcome but there are certain standards that have to be met," he said.

"We need to ram that message home to them in a pretty brutal diplomatic way."

Almost 2 million people have now been infected with COVID-19, which was first found in December in Wuhan, China.

A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves in Beijing. Picture: AP
A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves in Beijing. Picture: AP

China reported 3,345 deaths from 83,306 cases, in figures that are now widely suspected of being significantly underestimated.

Li Wenliang, a doctor who warned his colleagues about the virus on December 30 last year, was forced to retract his statement by Chinese authorities.

He said in an interview with the New York Times before he died of COVID-19 in February that there should be more "openness and transparency" in China.

Retired United States Lt Gen H. R. McMaster said in the Policy Exchange debate that the world was "delusional" if it thought the Chinese Communist Party would become more democratic as the country became wealthier.

"China's communist party is perfecting this Orwellian police state," he said.

"This is an authoritative dictatorship that is trying to extend its exclusive grip on power."

China has been sending masks and other medical equipment as a sign of its goodwill, but much of it was faulty, Lt Gen McMaster added.

 

Britain's former Foreign Secretary William Hague. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Britain's former Foreign Secretary William Hague. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

He urged western countries to better sell their story of foreign aid as they came out of their coronavirus peaks.

Former British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the world needed to reconsider its supply chain to avoid relying on China.

He warned China had a stranglehold on some metals that were used to make batteries, which would become crucial as the world moved to electric cars.

India would become a key ally in balancing China's power and "must succeed", Lt Gen McMaster added.

Originally published as China must pay for COVID-19, says former Liberal leader


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