Chinese fear going to Australia despite hospitality campaign

By Xu Keyue Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/8 19:03:40

Australians pose with signs saying "Australia welcomes you." Photo: screenshot of official website of Australia China Business Council

Chinese students expressed concerns about studying in Australia, and travel agencies are pessimistic about tourism prospects for the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, racism and anti-China sentiment in Australia, despite a campaign expected to repair ties damaged by political tensions.

The campaign "Australia welcomes you," which started on Monday, is a voluntary social media campaign on Australian and Chinese platforms, including Sina Weibo, where netizens can share the hashtag #AustraliaWelcomesYou with a personal message,  Helen Sawczak, National CEO of the Australia China Business Council, one of the supporters of the campaign, told the Global Times. 

Coordinated by the local Chinese community Chinese Australian Forum, the campaign also involves the China Australia Business Council, the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and University of Technology Sydney, Australian media reported.

Sawczak noted that "it is hoped the campaign will show how seriously ordinary Australians and businesses are bearing the consequences of Australia's sinking image posed by the coronavirus, geopolitics and racism."

The campaign wants to overcome the noise of current politics, and send the message that Australia is a "safe and welcoming country," she said. 

"Despite good intentions, the campaign may yield little, given the recent outbreak of anti-China hysteria from the Morrison government, which has spared no effort to poison the already fragile bilateral relations," a Chinese observer who requested anonymity told the Global Times. 

Chinese students enrolled at Australian universities generally support the campaign, but were also pessimistic about what it could do to change the status quo.

Universities may not take an anti-China stance as Chinese students' tuition fees are a big source of income. But joining the campaign will not solve the problems - animosity against Chinese is wide, Edric Liu, a Chinese student from the University of Sydney, told the Global Times. 

Liu is planning to leave the country and continue his studies at a university in New Zealand.

Another Chinese student, Du Jiafeng, currently a PhD candidate in Sydney, has been insulted on several occasions during his 10 years in Australia. Du noted that schools are eager to deny claims of racism because they care about Chinese students' money, not their real situation.

Campaign supporters, business leaders and universities do not represent the majority of Australian society, Du said, noting the campaign is "just a gesture." 

Chinese travel agencies operating international tours told the Global Times they have not received any bookings since Australia and China remain closed to each other due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bilateral tensions also contributed to pessimism over tourism in the near future. 

A Shanghai-based travel agency said the political standoff would affect their business, and they may not offer tourist packages to Australia in 2020.

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