Beijing blasts Australian tycoon's insults

Beijing blasts Australian tycoon's insults
A 2013 file photo of Australian billionaire Clive Palmer speaking at a news conference in London. China's foreign ministry has condemned a verbal attack by the mining mogul and politician as irrational and absurd, after he described China's government as "bastards" who shoot their own people.

CHINA - The Foreign Ministry has condemned a verbal attack by Australian mining mogul and politician Clive Palmer as "irrational and absurd", after the businessman described China's government as "bastards" who shoot their own people.

"Palmer's words about China in recent days are totally irrational and absurd. We strongly condemn them," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement posted on the ministry's website on Wednesday.

Qin also noted that Australian political leaders, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, had criticised Palmer's words, saying the tycoon's stance did not have the wider backing of the Australian public.

Xinhua News Agency said that "one rotten apple" should not be allowed to ruin relations. It noted that the Chinese embassy had received e-mails of support from Australians who felt embarrassed by Palmer.

The Australian government has rebuked Palmer, who holds the balance of power in the Parliament's upper house. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she planned to contact the Chinese embassy to stress that the Australian Parliament does not share Palmer's "abusive" views.

Palmer is locked in a legal battle with the Chinese firm CITIC Pacific over cost blowouts and disputed royalty payments at the Sino Iron project in Western Australia, China's biggest offshore mining investment.

The outspoken businessman lost two parts of that legal fight on Wednesday. The Federal Court of Australia ruled that the government was wrong to have appointed Palmer's private company, Mineralogy Pty Ltd, as operator of Cape Preston port, where Sino Iron is exporting its ore.

In a separate case, a federal judge ruled that the government had the right to approve CITIC Pacific's security plan for the port facilities at Cape Preston.

Mineralogy had challenged the approval in an attempt to block CITIC Pacific, controlled by state-owned CITIC Group Corp, from exporting iron ore from the US$8 billion (S$10 billion) project.

CITIC bought the rights to the ore from Palmer and began shipments in December, more than three years behind schedule at nearly quadruple the original cost.

A further court challenge over some A$200 million (S$232.5 million) in royalties is ongoing.

Palmer has already said his comments were not intended to refer to the Chinese people, and on Wednesday issued another statement saying he had been a "major supporter of the Chinese" for a long time.

Nev Power, chief executive of Fortescue Metals Group, which sold US$11.8 billion worth of Australian iron ore to China in fiscal 2014, said he did not think the remarks would have an impact on bilateral relations.

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