Beijing said Friday it has lodged an official protest with Canberra after Australia’s parliament proposed a suite of foreign interference laws and singled out China as a focus of concern.

“We are quite shocked at relevant remarks of Australian leaders,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing.

“It is full of prejudices against China and it is creating something out of thin air.”

Australian Parliament, Canberra
Australian Parliament, Canberra. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Geng said China has lodged “solemn representations” with Australia, without saying when the diplomatic protest was issued.

Beijing calls on Canberra to “immediately stop making wrong remarks that will undermine political trust and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Australia”, he added.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday announced wide-ranging reforms to tackle rising concerns over foreign interference in Australia, noting “disturbing reports” about Chinese influence.

In June, he ordered an inquiry following media revelations that Australia’s spy agency had warned the country’s political elite two years ago about taking donations from two billionaires linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra issued a furious response to the proposed laws Wednesday, saying Australian media had “repeatedly fabricated” stories about “so-called” Chinese infiltration in Australia.

 Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on April 15, 2016. File photo: Kenzaburo Fukuhara/AFP.

The remarks were “filled with cold war mentality and ideological bias, reflected a typical anti-China hysteria and (are) paranoid,” it said in a statement.

Rhetoric has escalated from inside Canberra over the past week, after key Labor MP Sam Dastyari was forced to resign as deputy opposition whip over reports that he told a Chinese businessman his phone was likely being tapped by Australian intelligence.

The June probe said intelligence agencies had major concerns that China was interfering in Australian institutions and using the political donations system to gain access.

Beijing denied the allegations as “totally groundless”.

There have also been mounting concerns within Australian universities about Beijing’s use of nationalist student groups to monitor students and challenge academics whose views do not align with Chinese Communist Party doctrine.

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