Federal Government rejects racism claims as China tells citizens not to visit Australia
Hundreds of Asian Australians told the ABC they were victims of racially charged incidents during the coronavirus lockdown.(Unsplash: Kate Trifo)
The Australian Government has disputed advice issued to Chinese citizens urging them not to travel to Australia amid what China calls a spike in racism during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued the alert, reporting a "significant increase" in racist attacks on "Chinese and Asian people".
The warning came after China's state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial that told Chinese students to "be cautious about studying in Australia".
"Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asian people in Australia have seen a significant increase," the ministry statement said.
"The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reminds Chinese tourists to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia."
But Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack rejected the suggestion there had been an increase in racist attacks in Australia.
"There hasn't been a wave of outbreaks of violence against Chinese people," he said.
"I don't know why this has been stated, I don't know what was in the thinking of the organisation or the person who made the statement, all I can say is the statement is not true."
There have been numerous reports of people of Asian appearance experiencing flagrant racism across Australia in the wake of COVID-19.
During the height of the pandemic, the ABC chronicled the stories of Asian Australians who had fallen victim to such attacks.
A Chinese-Australian family's Melbourne home was targeted by vandals three times in one week in April.
Some of the incidents that happened in public areas were captured on video and shared widely on social media.
But Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the Chinese Government's claims were false.
"We reject China's assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact," he said.
"Australia is enjoying world-leading success in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 and, when the health advice allows, we look forward to again welcoming visitors from all backgrounds to our safe and hospitable nation.
"Australia is the most successful multicultural and migrant society in the world. The Chinese-Australian community is a significant and valued contributor to that success story."
Asked whether he was concerned China's decision could damage relations with Australia, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he wanted to send a "positive message"
"What I want is for everyone to know, regardless of where they are anywhere in the world, that Australia's a great place to visit," he said.
Chinese Australians vent worries
Thousands of Chinese Australians have taken to social media platforms to discuss the claims.
On popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, users expressed their concerns with one post receiving more than 16,000 comments.
One user, Confidant_eddy said:
"What happened? No tourists allowed in except Australian citizens and residents! Not to mention there are no air tickets to purchase! Only tyrants can afford air tickets now!"
Since the announcement was made, hundreds of Chinese Australians said they also received questions from their friends and families in China asking if racism was really a problem in Australia.
The discussion soon became a hot topic on Chinese social media platform Our Steps, attracting hundreds of comments.
While some users shared stories, some users said they had been treated very well.
One user, Cccaat, said: "My parents are here for more than half a year. Fortunately, they saw here that their neighbours were very friendly with them.
"If they saw news about discrimination in Australia, they would definitely be very, very worried about our safety in Australia."
The travel warning from China could further sour relations between the trade partners.
Last month, China announced an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and blacklisted four major beef exporters due to labelling violations.
But Beijing denied that the measures were in retaliation to Australia's call for an independent investigation into the global pandemic.
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected claims that Australia's tightening of overseas investment security tests was made with China in mind.
Mr Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed reforms into foreign investment that would include a stringent security test aimed at protecting critical assets.
Mr Morrison denied that the move was targeting China, adding that it should not further sour Australia's relationship with the world's most populous nation.
"I don't believe it should," he said.
"Countries make decisions on their own interests for their own rules and we respect the rules and interests of other countries, so I see no reason why that should be the case.
"Australia will always design its foreign investment rules on that basis, as other countries do theirs, so I don't think there is anything extraordinary about that."
The latest developments will put further pressure on cash-strapped Australian universities and colleges, which are reeling in the wake of coronavirus travel restrictions.