China’s ambassador to Australia has been unexpectedly recalled early from his post in Canberra.
Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu had returned to Beijing "for a meeting", a member of staff at the Chinese embassy in Canberra told the South China Morning Post.
A Chinese embassy spokesman confirmed to the Associated Press that Ma had returned to Beijing on Monday, but described the trip as “just a normal duty.”
“He has to go back every year many times to report; that is normal,” said the spokesman, who declined to give his name. He could not say how long Ma would be away.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio reported on Tuesday that as recently as Saturday, the Chinese embassy told Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs that Ma would be returning to Beijing in mid-June.
However, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said there was nothing unusual about Ma's return to Beijing.
"China's ambassadors travel between China and the nations they are posted. They return to China to report duty and take leave. This is very normal," he said.
Qin didn't say whether Ma was summoned at short notice.
It did not say whether Ma had left the country.