(Reuters) – China on Friday advised the public to avoid travelling to Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence in connection with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“There has been an alarming increase recently in acts of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement.
It did not give any specific examples of such discrimination or violence.
Australia rejected the accusations saying they had no basis in fact.
“Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them,” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said in a statement.
Asians have faced harassment in various countries since the outbreak of the coronavirus began late last year.
China earlier issued a warning to tourists travelling to the United States after some said they were mistreated in connection with the outbreak.
Australia’s relations with China, its most important trading partner, have deteriorated in recent years amid accusations that China is meddling in Australia’s affairs.
Australia, a popular destination for tourists and students from China, also fears China is seeking undue influence in the Pacific region.
Ties have been under more strain in recent weeks since Australia called for an international enquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Last month, China imposed tariff on imports of Australian barley and blocked beef imports from several Australian sources.
Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Robert Birsel