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Statement by Chinese Consul-General Dong Zhihua at the ACFSWA Annual Friendship Night

(24 October 2019, Pan Pacific Hotel)

Dear Nancy Chen, President of Australia China Friendship Society WA,

Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA Minister for Tourism; Racing and Gaming; Small Business; Defence Issues; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests.

Hon Peter Katsambanis MLA, Shadow Minister for Police; Road Safety; Industrial Relations,

Mr. Hao Zhongwei, Deputy Director-General of Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's a great pleasure for me to attend the ACFSWA Annual Friendship Night. I am glad to see after a successful debut last year, we have a much larger event this year and of higher level, with the much loved Minister Papalia's presence and the representative from the opposition. I would also like to welcome most warmly a delegation from Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, led by Mr. Hao Zhongwei, a very prestigious organization in promoting sister relations between Chinese provinces and cities with those of other countries for people-to-people exchanges. I also thank the support from the WA business community and Chinese community who are well represented tonight.

ACFSWA is very special and dear to me, let me tell you why. ACFS played an active role in different states in Australia in promoting the establishment of diplomatic relations with China in the 1970s and remain committed to this relationship ever since Sino-Australia diplomatic relations were established in 1972. The WA ACFS was established in 1971 and their founding members are all well over 70 years old now. They include Geoff Davis, who introduced Chinese teaching in WA public Schools in 1980 and was the founder of the WA Chinese Language Teachers' Association, and later the Chinese Language Teachers Federation of Australia. During the past 6 months I have met the senior members and heard their stories about teaching English in China, helping Chinese students and scholars settle down in WA when there were not yet so many Chinese as today. It was very touching and inspiring. They give me a lot of confidence in the future of our friendship.

During the past decades, with the Chinese Consulate General established in 1994, more and more associations and communication channels created in the WA business and ethnic Chinese community, ACFS does not seem that visible. But they are so unique by keeping the tradition. They gather not for any particular worldly gains, but out of a genuine interest and love in the Chinese culture, in the country and the people. They took me and the Consulate staff to the King's Park to see the wild flowers and we shared happy moments together in a beautiful spring day. My good friend Susan took a group of photography lovers on a recent tour to China and shared her works with me on her way through the Chinese Wechat account. It is that pure warmth of friendship that sustained ACFS's close ties with the Chinese Consulate General throughout the years. The Chinese people never forget old friends and we shall forever cherish them.

Now our bilateral relations stands at a crossroads and is faced with new challenges. To let it be dragged back to the Cold War Era by spreading ideological bias and unfounded fear, or to focus on common interests and carry forward our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the 21st century. Which way is in the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples. That is the question. And I think people sitting in this room already have an answer and we all have the same answer. Tonight ACFS will present awards to those institutions and individuals who played an outstanding role in promoting mutual understanding, friendship and practical cooperation between China and WA. I congratulate those in advance who will receive awards tonight and thank them for their contribution.

As President Xi Jinping said in his address to Australia's Parliament in 2014, it is the steady streams of mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples that have created the vast ocean of goodwill between China and Australia. Working together, our friendship will span over mountains and oceans, withstand rain and storm, and will be strong and everlasting as the majestic Uluru rock and the Great Wall.

Ultimately its the people that determine the future of our bilateral relations. I call on you all to join ACFS and the award winners to work shoulder to shoulder in building stronger ties between China and WA and elevating our relationship to the next level. In more concrete terms, what you can do immediately is to book China Eastern during the trial flight period between 15 January and 17 Feburary next year to support Minister Papalia's endeavor in turning it into a regular flight between Shanghai and Perth.

I hope you have a delightful and enlightening night.

I thank you.

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