Clive Palmer makes China apology over 'mongrels' remarks

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Media captionClive Palmer called the Chinese government "mongrels"

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has apologised for calling the Chinese government "mongrels" in televised comments that drew widespread criticism.

In a letter to China's ambassador to Australia, the mining tycoon apologised for "any insult to the Chinese people caused by any of the language I used".

Strong ties between Australia and China were in everyone's interests, he said.

Mr Palmer is an MP and his party holds the balance of power in the Senate.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not have a majority in the upper chamber and so must rely on support from independents and minority party lawmakers, including the Palmer United Party, to pass legislation.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy acknowledged that Mr Palmer's remarks did not represent the views of the Australian government, parliament and people.

But it added: "The Chinese people are never to be insulted. Any remarks attacking or slandering China would not gain support and were doomed to failure."

'Unfriendly attitude'

Mr Palmer made his comments in an interview last week with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He also said the Chinese government "shoot their own people" and suggested "they want to take over this country".

Amid a strong backlash, Mr Palmer then clarified that his comments were aimed at a Chinese company with whom he is locked in a legal dispute.

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Media captionTrade Minister Andrew Robb explains what he is doing to calm the row

Several Australian cabinet ministers spoke out strongly against Mr Palmer's comments, with Mr Abbott calling them "over the top, shrill and wrong".

"Really it's very hard to understand why someone who wants to be influential in our nation's life would be so simplistic and counterproductive," he said.

Mr Palmer's comments also attracted attention in Chinese media, with state-run daily Global Times saying the tycoon's "rampant rascality serves as a symbol that Australian society has an unfriendly attitude toward China".

In his letter to the Chinese ambassador, Mr Palmer said he "most sincerely" apologised for his comments.

"I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater peace and understanding in the future," he said.

China is Australia's top trading partner.

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