Kevin Rudd denies he attempted to punch Chinese negotiator

Kevin Rudd has dismissed claims he attempted to punch a Chinese negotiator during tense climate talks as an “urban myth”.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown claimed Mr Rudd had to be physically restrained from attacking a Chinese representative, as Beijing took a hard-line stance at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009.

Mr Brown made the allegation in the UK Guardian as part of a review of Bill Gates’ new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

“So bitter were the divisions that the Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, who bravely stood out for an ambitious deal, had to be physically restrained from punching the Chinese negotiator,” he wrote.

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Mr Rudd has previously expressed his frustrations at Beijing’s approach to the talks but dismissed the allegation as an “urban myth”.

“It didn’t happen. I’ve always made a point of leaving the shirt-fronting to (former prime minister) Tony Abbott,” he told the Nine newspapers.

“The bottom line is that I was vigorously prosecuting Australia’s climate interests at a time when China was aggressively resisting. I make no apologies for doing so.”

Mr Rudd reportedly worked well into the night during the conference as he attempted to salvage talks, reportedly describing the Chinese negotiators as “ratf—ers in an angry briefing to Australian journalists.

When that allegation was put to him in the 2015 ABC series The Killing Season, he replied: “I cannot recall because I frankly had not been to sleep for a couple of days.”

“I’m a person given often to fairly direct speech. And it’s pretty disappointing when you have the concerted opposition of a couple of other countries who are so significant in the world,” he said.

He later clarified he said “the Chinese are trying to ratf–k us”, conceding the “colourful phrase” underlined his frustration with Beijing.

Mr Brown was glowing about Mr Rudd’s performance in Copenhagen and during The Killing Season despite the allegation.

“We didn’t get the full treaty, (but) the fact that we got a Copenhagen declaration, which has now led to the next stage that will be worked through this year, is in no small measure due to him,” he said.

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