Antagonism against Chinese in Australia should be condemned

By Chen Hong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/27 18:33:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Recently, when a friend was chitchatting in Putonghua in downtown Melbourne, she was stopped by a Caucasian man, who said insolently, "Don't speak Chinese here. In this country, everyone speaks English." In a similar incident that took place not long ago, another friend was in a private conversation with his girlfriend in an elevator, when a stranger interjected with a curt and rude "English, please." 

Australia takes pride in being a multicultural country, with its vibrant diversity of ethnic groups, traditions, languages and cuisines, which, since the mid-1970s, have led to drastic changes, and infused vitality and dynamism into the country. To openly confront someone in a private conversation on a city street and condescendingly challenge his or her choice of language goes against the basic principles of any civilized society that is free and open. 

Such a racially discriminating attitude can flow from vernacular street talk and spill into national politics, hurting its sanctity. People in and outside Australia last week were flabbergasted when Senator Barry O'Sullivan of the Nationalist Party made obnoxious and disgusting racist remarks about "some bloody old Chinaman that brings in his favorite sausage down the front of his undies" at a Senate hearing in Canberra. Such blatant expression of racial and cultural hatred is not to be brushed off as a casual and mindless gaffe by a rogue, but taken as a brazen contempt of Chinese visitors and the 1.2 million Australians of Chinese heritage. The senator's behavior should never be overlooked, not to say forgiven and forgotten.

Since the 1850s, Chinese immigrants have industriously contributed to nation-building, and social, economic and cultural development of Australia. The Australian economy has been growing consecutively for nearly three decades with strong and mutually beneficial relations with China. To date, the country remains one of the favorite destinations of Chinese tourists, students and investors, who have been continuously contributing to its multicultural diversity. 

We cherish the constructive and multifarious ties with Australia, and expect reciprocity. It is always easier to break a good relationship than to make one. The anti-China rhetoric and vilification have been going on in Australia for nearly two years, and Chinese people are getting increasingly fed up with such incessant and irresponsible finger-pointing by some Australian media outlets, think tanks and sometimes government figures. As a veteran politician, O'Sullivan should have had more wisdom and basic civility. His brazen remarks will further alienate and antagonize Chinese people in Australia and elsewhere. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said O'Sullivan's racial invectives "do not represent my views, nor do they represent the views of the Liberal and National parties' Coalition government." Morrison applauded the contribution and accomplishments made by the Chinese community in Australia. Opposition leader Bill Shorten also condemned O'Sullivan's racist rant. Both Morrison and Shorten made prompt denunciations on their public accounts on the popular Chinese social media app, WeChat. It is apparent that they were targeting the Chinese community in Australia as federal elections are scheduled by May. However, shouldn't their condemnation be broadened to include those who shamelessly use derogatory terms for the Chinese or any other ethnic group? 

Bill Shorten was very right to go further to demand O'Sullivan make a public apology so that the prejudiced senator is reminded that today's Australian society is multicultural.

The author is a professor and director of Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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