An Australian lawmaker and businessman has apologized for a rant in which he said Chinese "mongrels" and "bastards" are trying to take over Australia.
In a letter sent to China's ambassador to Australia on Tuesday, Clive Palmer said he now understands that his comments were "an insult to Chinese people everywhere."
The comments, made last week during a nationally televised panel discussion, were slammed by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Palmer previously argued his comments were directed not at the Chinese people in general, but at a Chinese state-owned company that is in a legal dispute with his own.
The multi-millionaire's Mineralogy company is clashing over royalties and operations with CITIC Pacific Mining. The businesses are mining magnetite iron ore from an Australian ranch.
CITIC accuses Palmer of siphoning off $11 million to help fund his election campaign. Palmer rejects the charge. In a panel broadcast live on Australian television last Monday, the 60-year-old said he was filing a countersuit over the $465 million he says his companies are owed by Beijing.
He said this was part of his efforts to stand up against the "Chinese bastards," adding that he had already received federal and supreme court judgments against what he called the "Chinese mongrels."
Palmer said he was making the remarks "because they're communist, they shoot their own people, they haven't got a justice system and they want to take over this country, and we're not going to let them do it."
In his apology letter Tuesday, Palmer said he "most sincerely" apologizes for the comments and he regrets "any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party." He said he looks forward to "greater peace and understanding in the future."
China's official Xinhua news agency said Beijing's ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, received the apology. It said Ma emphasized that attacking or slandering China would not gain popular support and cannot hinder the "healthy and stable relationship" between Australia and China.
China is Australia's biggest trading partner, and top Australian officials have said it was not helpful that Palmer would make the comments at a time when Canberra is in the final stages of negotiating a free trade agreement with Beijing.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called Palmer's statements offensive, unnecessary and unacceptable, saying they do not reflect the opinions of the Australian government or the Australian people.
Palmer was elected to parliament last October and controls a powerful voting bloc in the Australian Senate.