Conservative Chinese communities in Australia act to stop same-sex marriage

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/26 18:08:39

Usually politically apathetic, they are learning to influence society in democratic way


Since voting commenced on Australia's new same-sex marriage survey, many in the Chinese community have actively and vocally campaigned to vote no

Many of those same activists were not involved in other issues and only became unprecedentedly united on this particular matter

There is division in the community, as younger Chinese tend to support same-sex marriage

 

Protesters hold up banners at an anti-same-sex marriage rally in Sydney on September 9. Photo: VCG

Over the past couple of weeks, Liu Tingting, a Chinese PhD student attending Australia's Queensland University, found a number of Chinese-language leaflets advertising against same-sex marriages.

Liu, who is also a visiting scholar at West Sydney University, saw Chinese people passing out bilingual pamphlets and fliers at the entrance of Chinese supermarkets in Sydney. She even saw fliers being stuffed into people's mailboxes.

One colorful flyer had a large cartoon drawing of two men kissing, with the Chinese words "Homosexuality is a deadly curse declared by God" at the top. The paper went on to explain other reasons for opposing same-sex marriage, such as that it will hurt women, that it is a blasphemy of marriage and that, because homosexuals can't have children, it will bring an end to families.

The wave of Chinese advertisements campaigning against gay marriage has been rising following the Australian government's launch of a national survey on same-sex marriage, which began collecting votes on September 12.

Many in the Chinese community down under who may not have spoken up before on other Aussie issues have united to voice their concerns on this sensitive subject. But their vocal activism has also drawn opposition from other Chinese, particularly of the younger generations.

Virtual battlefield

Liu thinks the national survey has its faults, such as it does not have any legal status as a referendum, that it is entirely voluntarily and that people can choose to take or not take part in it.

The survey only has one question: "Should Australian law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry," with only two options: "Yes" or "No."

Still, the reaction from the Chinese community has been overwhelmingly strong - and divided. Besides publicizing their opinions in fliers and posters, WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, has become a sort of virtual battlefield between proponents on both sides of the issue.

Liu said she feels that she can't be friends anymore with many of her WeChat Moments contacts, as those who are against gay marriage are especially annoying about constantly publicizing their beliefs, while those who support same-sex marriage mostly remain meek and silent.

A few Australia-based WeChat groups she is a member of are constantly filled with posts and messages calling for an opposition of same-sex marriage.

"Emergency, please share this with others! The fate of Australia and our next generation is in your hands! Vote against legalizing same-sex marriage because it's a death spell that will leave you sonless, and the origin that creates and spreads AIDS," read one post Liu shared with the Global Times.



Unprecedented participation

Besides passing out fliers, meet-ups are also being organized; a Chinese Presbyterian church in Australia hosted a sermon specifically on the matter.

Pansy Lai, a Sydney-based Chinese pediatrician and founder of Australian Chinese for Families Association, has appeared in a video advertisement paid for by Coalition for Marriage as one of three concerned mothers calling on people to vote no on the survey.

"I do not discriminate against anyone. I respect all people and their way of life and I believe that everybody is valuable," Lai told the Global Times in an e-mail response.

"However," she added, "I am concerned about the consequence of changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage on the whole society. Redefining marriage impacts the entire society, in areas of education, as well as freedom of speech."

Lai has been a vocal critic of Australia's Safe Schools program since it commenced in Victoria in 2010. The program was intended to create a safer and more inclusive environment for same sex-attracted students at Australian public schools. Media reported that Lai collected 17,500 signatures from members of the Australian Chinese community who were opposed to the program.

Liu noticed that in the time leading up to the survey, conservative Chinese showed an unprecedented enthusiasm for political participation, from passing out leaflets to spreading anti-homosexual propaganda on Chinese social media.

She said that one local WeChat group that was originally used to petition against building a mosque in the city has now become a platform for Chinese to vocally oppose same-sex marriages.

"The Chinese community is very strong on family values and we believe it is important to pass on our family values to our next generation. I believe many in the Chinese community are concerned that legalizing same-sex marriage will have an impact on the education system and freedom of speech in our country, limiting our rights as parents to pass on our family values to our children," Lai added.

Furious and cursing

Wang Li (pseudonym), a Chinese woman who lives in Sydney, posts at least 20 messages per day on her WeChat Moments opposing same-sex marriage and urging others to vote no. She also patrols other WeChat groups and talks to new people she meets, either online or face-to-face, in a preachy tone.

When the Global Times reporter approached her on WeChat, she sent a long message listing out the reasons for opposing same-sex marriage. She also said the LGBT movement in Asia has gone viral and even Taiwan has fallen, so the fort needs to be defended in Australia.

"Young people are influenced more by white leftists, because they don't have children and don't understand the impact on education after [same-sex marriage is] legalized," Wang told the Global Times.

Jack Zhang, a Chinese who works in Sydney, has been arguing with Wang and other opponents of same-sex marriage in Wang's WeChat group. He said most of the active opponents he has contact with are radical Christians who use their religion to threaten and even curse those with different opinions.

"These people call for others to boycott companies that support LGBT rights, but when they find out their phones, cars, banks and even the supermarkets they go to support equal rights, they can't cut their services either," he said.

In a message chain Zhang shared with the Global Times, he attempts to explain to Wang that most of the companies that offer services in her life support same-sex marriage. Wang at first replies that all these companies need to be boycotted, but later on she becomes quite furious and curses Zhang's family.

Personal attacks

Propaganda against same-sex marriage in the Chinese community has received attention from other groups that do not share the same ideals. After Lai appeared in the video ad, a petition was put up online for her medical license to be revoked.

The petition called on the Australian Medical Association to "review the registration of Dr Pansy Lai." According to media reports, it attracted more than 6,200 signatures on Communityrun.org, a site operated by activist group GetUp, before being taken down a couple of days later.

Lai said she feels this sort of personal attack is unfair. "I spoke as a concerned mother (not as a doctor) on the advertisement, sharing my worries over the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage on the education system," she said. "My views on traditional marriage have nothing to do with my ability to look after my patients in a professional capacity."

But for the most part, younger generations of Chinese have been unusually quiet in the face of such vehement propaganda being put out by their elders. Liu Tingting said that, unfortunately, many (youth) do not have an ability to argue well or are too afraid to openly defy their parents, whom many young Chinese adults still live with.

Nonetheless, the Brisbane-based scholar believes that the increase in political awareness and participation among Australia's Chinese community is a good thing. It means, she said, that a group with hundreds of years of centralist history is finally learning to act on their opinions in a democratic way.

But on the other hand, she admits being worried that the current situation is leading to political polarization, radical opposition and even violence. The community seems to be hyper-divided about same-sex marriage - you either support it or you don't. Liu feels that the lack of a middle-ground could continue to cause a rift between Chinese youth and elders.

"People tend to forget, even though we have different views, it doesn't make us enemies," she said. "But for those conservative Chinese, 'us vs. them' might be an easier logic to follow."


Newspaper headline: Divided down under


Posted in: IN-DEPTH

blog comments powered by Disqus