The Chinese Embassy in Malaysia has moved to ease concerns over remarks Ambassador Huang Huikang had made during a visit to Petaling Street last Friday, after he was summoned to Malaysia's Foreign Ministry for "interfering" in the country's affairs.
The embassy said in a statement that Dr Huang's visit, which came nine days after a pro-Malay rally that accused Chinese Malaysians of trying to usurp political power, was an act of goodwill and not interference in Malaysia's domestic affairs.
Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, is a major attraction for tourists from China and a significant contributor of tourism dollars.
The embassy statement said the ambassador, who went there ahead of yesterday's Mid-Autumn Festival, makes similar visits during other festivals, including Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali.
"Dr Huang was asked some questions by the media but he only expressed the hope that Malaysia stays united, prosperous and harmonious," said the statement, according to yesterday's Sin Chew Daily. His visit was to show that Petaling Street was safe to visit, the statement added.
On Sept 16, pro-Malay figures, including Umno officials and lawmakers, gathered tens of thousands of supporters in a rally to counter last month's demonstration by electoral reforms group Bersih.
The Bersih protest had also drawn a massive crowd in Kuala Lumpur to call for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over allegations of financial misconduct.
But the largely Chinese turnout led to a racial backlash that included threats of violence.
Traders in Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang - another tourist and shopping area seen as a symbol of Chinese economic power - either closed for business or deployed additional security for the so-called "red shirts" rally.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement early yesterday that it would call in Dr Huang today to "seek clarification on his statement", which "has attracted attention and caused concern to the Malaysian public".
Dr Huang had said last Friday that China, Malaysia's top trading partner, would not hesitate to speak out against any threat that may affect the country's ties with Malaysia and that Beijing is opposed to discrimination against races and any form of extremism.
An Umno Youth leader has already called on Dr Huang to apologise, while Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of the newspaper owned by the ruling Malay party, also insisted the ambassador should be sent back to China for disrespecting Malaysia's sovereignty, if an apology is not forthcoming.
"Whatever it may be, Dr Huang must apologise or return to his country and be replaced with someone who knows more manners," the paper said in an editorial.
Even the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), an Umno ally, was forced to make a statement.
Its divisional leader, Mr Gan Ping Sieu, a former MCA vice-president, noted that Dr Huang's visit, though well-meaning, was counterproductive and could be manipulated to the detriment of the country's frayed racial harmony.
But the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia said in a statement yesterday that the government should withdraw its summons to the Chinese envoy.
It supported the embassy's view that Dr Huang's visit was to allay fears of racial clashes that had spiked following threats of a second "red shirts" protest last Saturday. That protest, however, did not materialise.