Is Australian society really anti-Chinese?

By Lilly Wang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/7 19:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Is Australia no longer safe for Chinese students? A recent brutal attack in the capital Canberra left three Chinese high school students injured, with one 17-year-old requiring hospitalization. 

This has certainly affected Australia's image, leaving many Chinese students and their parents concerned about safety and human rights in Australia.

The horrible experience could become a turning point in their attitudes toward Australia. Many Chinese students have said they regularly felt threatened and targeted because of their nationality, but all may not be as it first seems. 

This kind of experience is not limited to Chinese people. Ben, my white Australian friend, had the similar experience during his stay in Canberra. He was insulted as a "white c***" after he refused to give money to a drug taker on the street. They target individuals, not nationality.

Sydney residents told me that in the past, Indian people had been a target of street attacks. Nowadays, more Chinese students wear expensive brands, drive fancy cars and buy expensive jewelry without blinking.

If they are targeted, Chinese people don't fight back because they don't want to put their visa at risk. They worry that if they get involved in violent conflict with Australians, the police will always take their side. This could be why they are victimized like this. 

Racial discrimination is still an issue in Australia, and it is generally against any other race except for white. My Italian-Australian friend was insulted as "dago." The famous Australian newsreader Jeremy Fernandez was once verbally abused by a woman after he turned around to address her daughter for flicking and pinching his daughter on a bus in 2013. He was called a "black c***" and told to "go back to his country."

During my stay in Australia, I was once called a "stupid Chinese" by a driver who did not want to slow to let me pass. I was also called a "Japanese bitch" by a weird stranger. They say whatever they want to say based on how you look.

I am angry, but I know it's not fair to blame it on the whole country. People who lack education and morals aren't unique to Australia. Crimes happen even in a safe city. It may seem from the news that these incidents only happen to Chinese because a lot of Chinese only read Chinese media, which mainly focuses on Chinese related stories. If you read reports in other languages, you will see it is not just a "Chinese case." 

Some Australian-focused Chinese WeChat public accounts, such as Today Sydney or Melbourne Yinxiang frequently comment on discrimination or on anything negative connected to Chinese people. They exaggerate the facts and escalate the issues to attract more attention. Reading its articles almost makes me feel they deliberately highlight discrimination cases to get clicks and hits.

If in Beijing, some foreign expats claimed that Chinese are discriminating against them and Chinese are scoundrels because they were robbed on the subway or got ripped off at the market, is that fair?

Indeed, I notice more and more Australians believe in the "China threat" theory because they see more Australian houses and farms bought by Chinese. They think that rich Chinese have pushed up the price of local real estate so they can no longer afford a house. Australian milk powder goes out of stock because of high demand from Chinese buyers. They behave in their Chinese way in Australia, such as not standing in line or shouting at the wait staff in a restaurant. When a Chinese holiday comes, all the luxury products quickly sell out. These behaviors might trigger some hostility toward Chinese.

The Australian government should take more actions to guarantee the safety of Chinese international students. Racism in whatever manner is not acceptable. Most well-educated Australians object to racism and fight against it. It is better to get support and help from them than staying in a Chinese community and assuming that Australians dislike Chinese.

The author is a Beijing-based journalist. She lived in Sydney from 2014 to 2016.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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