China remains without a permanent consul-general in Perth, more than two months after the Asian superpower’s top diplomat returned to Beijing for health reasons. After 10 months as China’s consul-general in Perth, Dong Zhihua returned home in May — just days after Beijing imposed crippling 80 per cent tariffs on Australia’s barley producers. Multiple WA Government have told The West Australian her departure was not related to increasing trade tensions between China and Australia. Consul official Xu Bin this week confirmed Ms Dong returned to China for personal medical reasons and “will not come back to resume her office at Perth”. She said the appointment of consular officials “observes certain protocols and China will act accordingly”. Ms Dong’s deputy, Jin Qian, has been the acting consul-general since late May. Australia’s international travel ban would not appear to stop the Chinese Communist Party from sending a new, permanent consul-general to Perth. Under the ban, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members are permitted to travel to Australia. But Australia has legal obligations under the Vienna Convention to ensure diplomats freedom of movement and travel and protection from detention. Diplomats are not required to serve 14 days of mandatory quarantine on arrival into Australia. Instead, they are told to isolate at their mission or in their usual place of residence for 14 days. The State Government appeared to have a good relationship with Ms Dong who was regularly photographed with Premier Mark McGowan. In an opinion piece for The West Australian this year, she praised Mr McGowan saying that he had been “widely applauded on Chinese social media” for his sympathy for Chinese people impacted by COVID-19. Tensions between the Chinese and Australian governments have ratcheted up due to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for a probe into coronavirus. They escalated further this week when Chinese state media threatened trade sanctions on Australian beef and wine, warning the chance of “turnaround” for the relationship was slim after the Morrison Government backed the United States on the South China Sea. The Global Times, a state media outlet, said the relationship had “deteriorated to a very bad point” after Australia on Friday filed a statement to the United Nations declaring it rejected Beijing’s maritime claims around contested islands in the South China Sea.