"This press conference", the ambassador began, "is about Xinjiang".
"I am happy to discuss the bilateral relationship between our two countries in another forum but that is not the purpose of bringing you here today."
The problem was, however, the key question journalists wanted answers to was exactly that key issue: the bilateral relationship between China and Australia.
As it turned out both sides were extremely clear - both the questions and the answers. The only problem was they never actually met.
The frustration on the Chinese side was quite understandable.
They had, after all, put on a special video link to the remote Western city of Urumqi, capital of the (largely) ethnically Muslim Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and laid on political representatives, local women, education practitioners - even an Imam, wearing the taqiyah, a short rounded Islamic skull-cap - to speak to the Australian media. Video's showed laughing children frolicking in parks while parents hosed and polished cars in scenes that would have delighted any Great Wall auto salesperson.
We heard of a flourishing society with religious harmony and prosperity for all.
Indeed, insisted Vice Governor Erkin Tuniyas, "the problem of extreme poverty has been resolved, once and for all".
Statistics demonstrating school retention and boosts to productivity were reeled out, further proving how the once backward region was continuing to turn into a flourishing hub of prosperity and development.
Unfortunately, however, not all the numbers were available. The number of people undergoing political re-education, for example, was not forthcoming despite three journalists asking for details of these programs.
Perhaps, however, that was part of the plan.
What we heard was one young woman who instead stated, apparently unprompted, "we are very satisfied about our life". Another, perhaps of a more statistical bent, insisted wages generally were up 20 per cent. And - as if to put a capstone on the freedoms enjoyed by Uyghurs - we were told how those belonging to the ethnic minority were permitted to have three children, rather than the two elsewhere in China.
One local related her desire to work to a local proverb. "Two pennies earned by hard work," she insisted, "is better than a huge mound owned by the Emperor" which is, no doubt, utterly true. Such information, however, failed to move the emotions of journalists primed to ask questions about stories of repression.
"Those stories are made up by anti-China forces," said ambassador Cheng Jingye. "It is fake news."
He promised we could find out for ourselves. "Facts speak louder than words."
And that's how, after two hours of answers and questions failing to meet, the ambassador suddenly brought the conversation together.
"China would like", Cheng insisted, "to see a stabilised relationship [between Canberra and Beijing] to serve the best interests of both countries. It is for Australia to work to put this back on track."
It had taken a long time to convey a very simple message. China is not backing down and will not accept it is engaging in any inappropriate actions in Xinjiang.
So will Beijing drop sanctions on wheat, barley, wine and lobster, to name just a few of the products that are currently facing "difficulties" in the Chinese market?
"The difficulties in our relationship are not from our end," insisted the ambassador.
His message was never put into words but it hung soundlessly in the air.
Xinjiang is an integral part of China and internal issues are not up for discussion. This is non-negotiable. As far as Beijing is concerned Uyghur rights are being protected and it will supervise the development of the ethnic minority.
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