Chinese students in Australia’s capital say that they are now afraid to go to school after being harassed, threatened and roughed up by local teenagers because of their nationality.
Last Monday, a group of Chinese students were approached by some local teens at Canberra’s busy Woden bus interchange. After asking for some cigarettes, the teens allegedly began shouting racial slurs at the Chinese students, telling them to “go back to China.”
Words quickly escalated into a fight, ending with three Chinese college and high school students injured and one 17-year-old student in the hospital, suffering from temporary blindness in one eye.
The Chinese students claimed that after the attack, police took their time in responding to the incident so that their attackers had already left the scene by the time that officers arrived. Moreover, they say that police did not take seriously their complaints of continually being followed around and harassed by local teens in the subsequent days.
— Elizabeth Lee MLA (@ElizabethLeeCBR) October 27, 2017
So instead, the students decided to speak out about the bullying and harassment on Chinese social media with a WeChat article quickly going viral in China and finally attracting the attention of Australian media who went to talk to some of the students.
“They followed us inside, they kept calling out while we were eating,” one anonymous student told Fairfax Media. “They’ll ask us for $2, and we’ll usually just hand it over, but then it’s $20s, it keeps escalating, I don’t know how to solve this problem.”
“This morning, they followed me, walked around close behind me and I ran away,” another student said. “It’s terrifying, I don’t feel comfortable here.”
Last Thursday, the Chinese embassy in Canberra issued a statement condemning the Woden attack and asking Australian Capital Territory (ACT) officials and police to ensure the safety of Chinese students living in the city. At the same time, the ACT Chinese Australians Association warned that “Canberra is no longer a safe place for international students.”
Police arrested two teenagers for the Woden attack last week, while also stating that they did not believe the attack was not racially motivated.
Either way, anti-Chinese sentiment certainly seems to be on the rise in Australia. On the first day of the new semester earlier this year, Chinese students at the University of Melbourne arrived on campus to find racist flyers telling them to stay out or be deported. A week later, the message “Kill Chinese” was discovered scrawled on the University of Sydney campus alongside a swastika.
Earlier this year, a Chinese Australian woman was attacked on the street in Sydney by a man who told her to “get out of my country” before punching her in the face.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat