Are Australians acting in a racist manner towards Chinese people because of the coronavirus pandemic? Or this this just another turn in the war of words that has been raging for some time?
The Chinese government certainly thinks Asians are being targeted. On Friday, 5 June it issued a travel warning to its citizens, citing racial discrimination and violence by Australians.
Increase in discrimination and violence
“There has been an alarming increase recently in acts of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement. “The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reminds Chinese tourists to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia.”
But it failed to give any specific examples of such discrimination or violence.
“Asians of various backgrounds have said they have been harassed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, including in the United States. China issued a warning to tourists travelling there earlier this year after some said they were mistreated in connection with the outbreak,” said Reuters in a news report on the ministry’s statement.
Trade Minister Birmingham says it’s untrue
On Saturday, 6 June Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he rejected China’s accusation against Australians.
“We reject China’s assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact,” Birmingham told AAP. “Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them.”
He said it was unfortunate that Australia had to close its borders with China to protect the country from COVID-19 as it spread from Wuhan.
“This decision was criticised by the Chinese Government at the time, but it proved to be a critical decision in keeping Australians safe from the devastation faced by much of the rest of the world,” Birmingham said.
Labor’s Clare believes there’s been a spike in abuse
But Labor’s Jason Clare believes there has been a spike in racist abuse during the pandemic and wants Foreign Minister Marise Payne to discuss the matter with China
“I hope that she’s on the phone talking to the Chinese government about this, as well as all of the other issues that seem to be a problem at the moment,” he told the ABC in an interview.
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of all of the tourist operators up and down and right across Australia when I say that we want to get tourists back when it’s safe to do so,” he said.