China threatens economic consequences if Australia launches investigation of Beijing's handling of coronavirus

Chinese officials are threatening economic consequences if Australia moves ahead with an investigation into Beijing’s early handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Australian Sky News reported on Monday

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said Beijing could encourage Chinese citizens to boycott Australian exports and products if Australia was to initiate the probe, the news outlet reported.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called the Chinese threats “economic coercion” and repeated calls for an investigation into the early handling of the outbreak, which is thought to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. 

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"Australia has made a principled call for an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unprecedented global crisis with severe health, economic and social impacts," she reportedly said. “We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global co-operation.”

The call by Australia to launch an independent investigation echoes criticisms by the U.S. that Beijing mishandled the coronavirus outbreak from its beginnings.

The U.S. has accused Chinese authorities of covering up the extent of the outbreak and alleged that Beijing failed to warn the world early enough about the coming pandemic.