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Published: Wednesday August 27, 2014 MYT 8:35:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday August 27, 2014 MYT 8:36:19 PM

China says watching billionaire Australian politician after tirade

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is watching the words and deeds of Australian mining magnate and politician Clive Palmer who apologised this week for referring to the Chinese government as "bastards" and setting off a diplomatic storm.

Palmer's apology, sent in a letter dated Aug. 25 to China's ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, came after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and China's Foreign Ministry condemned his remarks aired on television on Aug 18.

Palmer released the letter to the public on Tuesday.

"Palmer apologised to China for his recent mistaken remarks. China will be listening to his words and watching his actions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on the ministry's website on Wednesday.

"We hope Palmer can continue to take real actions to eliminate the negative effects of his mistaken remarks," Qin said.

In his apology, Palmer, whose Palmer United Party holds the balance of power in the Australian upper house of parliament, expressed regret for "any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party".

China is Australia's biggest trade partner, with two-way trade approaching $150 billion, representing more than 20 percent of Australia's total trade.

Palmer later insisted the live-to-air comments were directed at a Chinese company he is battling in court, not the Chinese government or people.

The billionaire tycoon is locked in a legal fight with Chinese firm CITIC Pacific Ltd over cost overruns and royalty payments involving the Sino Iron project in Western Australia, China's biggest foreign mining investment.

"In keeping an open mind, I now come to the realisation that what I said ... was an insult to Chinese people everywhere and I wish to assure them they have my most genuine and sincere apology," he wrote.

Palmer has been a thorn in the side of Abbott's government since his party won three seats in Australia's senate at last September's elections.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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