SYDNEY – According to a new survey, one-in-five Chinese-Australians say they have been physically threatened or attacked because of their heritage in the past year. Respondents to the study by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute have blamed discrimination on the coronavirus, which was first detected in China, and a growing political rift between Beijing and Canberra.
The survey by the Lowy Institute indicates that a large majority of the Chinese community believe Australia is a good place to live, and most feel a sense of belonging. However, 18 percent of respondents said they have been intimidated or physically assaulted because of the pandemic and rising diplomatic tensions. About a third said they had been verbally abused in the past year.
Jennifer Hsu is a Research Fellow in the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at the Lowy Institute.
“People did indicate that COVID-19 and Australia-China relations were the top two factors that affected their experiences of discrimination,” Hsu said.
Hsu told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that despite the abuse, many Chinese-Australians felt satisfied with their lives in Australia.
“People have this sense of belonging despite the discrimination expressed and they feel a sense of attachment to Australia. That says something about the strength of Australian society and Australia’s multiculturalism,” Hsu said.
Last year, China warned of a surge in racism in Australia fueled by the novel coronavirus. Canberra’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the virus was interpreted in Beijing as criticism of its handling of the crisis.
Tensions have also been enflamed over allegations of Chinese interference in Australia’s domestic politics and cyber-espionage. Disagreements over broader geo-political flashpoints have also been a source of antagonism, including Beijing’s contentious territorial claims in the South China Sea, human rights and Hong Kong’s fragile democracy.
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, but as the bilateral relationship frays, authorities in Beijing have imposed a range of economic sanctions and restrictions on a range of Australian goods, including barley, coal and wine.
Chinese immigration into Australia dates to the 1800s. More than 1.2 million people of Chinese heritage currently live in Australia. Half migrated from China, and ten percent were born in Australia.