Beijing has acknowledged Clive Palmer’s apology for his “mongrels” and “bastards” rant and declared the Chinese people cannot be insulted by such outbursts.
The maverick MP and mining magnate on Tuesday caved in after a week of relentless criticism and “most sincerely” apologised to Chinese ambassador Ma Zhaoxu for his televised tirade last week.
Mr Palmer sparked outrage when he accused the Chinese communist government on national television of shooting their own people and plotting to take over Australia.
Mr Ma said the Chinese government had severely condemned Mr Palmer’s “insulting remarks” but understood they by no means represented Australia’s parliament or its people.
“Ambassador Ma stressed that the Chinese people are never to be insulted,” an embassy spokesperson told AAP in a statement on Tuesday.
“Any remarks attacking or slandering China would not gain support and were doomed to failure.”
Mr Palmer recanted in a letter to Mr Ma as Chinese protesters gathered outside parliament demanding a full and unqualified apology from the crossbench MP.
He wrote that he now realised his comments were an offence to Chinese people everywhere and offered his “most genuine and sincere apology”.
“I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater understanding for peace and co-operation in the future,” he wrote.
It was an about-face for the outspoken MP, who defied near universal condemnation all week and refused to back down.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Mr Palmer’s comments were inappropriate for an Australian parliamentarian but he was a crossbench MP and his views didn’t represent the country.
“China is very capable of seeing that in the right context,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
Australian Industry Group boss Innes Willox said Mr Palmer’s apology should avert what could have been a potentially damaging situation.
“The incident serves as a reminder that there should be no room for abuse in political debate and it carries real risks for business if such abuse is directed at our trading partners,” Mr Willox said in a statement.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with the two-way exchange of goods and services exceeding $150 billion last year.