Chinese Australians: up where we belong

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PHOTO: Blossom Ah Ket is the great grand-daughter of Australia's first Chinese-Australian barrister. (ABC RN: Fiona Pepper )

This year marks 200 years since the first recorded Chinese settlers arrived in Australia. And today Sydney is honoring the little known William Ah Ket, first barrister of Chinese descent who fought against the White Australia policy and racist laws targeting Chinese workers.

Protecting the rights of people from all cultural backgrounds has been vital important in Australia’s past and future.

In spite of the fact that Australia has become China’s first trade partner, the two countries have gone through a period of increasing tension in recent months.

Especially when Canberra forms the new cabinet this week, Beijing is not happy saying “Morrison and Payne are hawks on China.”

The Chinese media The Global Times yesterday called Marise Payne’s move from defense minister to the foreign affairs portfolio a signal that “Australia hawks will have a bigger impact on foreign policy.”

It was Scott Morrison who had announced the Australian government’s decision to block Huawei from the 5G network, which the Chinese government has slammed as “wrong”.

“From a Chinese perspective, Australia is tilting toward the US and has become an active pivot of Washington’s tough China policy and a major force in smearing China,” according to the Global Times.

Most Chinese Australians would not agree to what the Chinese government media has claimed, although we often see divided groups of Chinese students raising flags and banners, protesting against each other.

“At a recent summer school we had there were very quickly tensions between the Chinese students and others over political issues,” Michael Wesley from the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University said.

“Australian universities have failed to properly integrate Chinese students into campus life, treating them as a commodity to raise revenue, a problem likely to hurt future international enrollments.” According to a report in Sydney Morning Herald.

“We have outsourced the pastoral care of Chinese students [in Australia] back to bodies with links to the local embassy and the Communist Party,” said James Leibold, an associate professor of Asian studies at La Trobe University. “We need to engage with these students rather than just say come here and we will take your money and give you a degree.”

Many Chinese students have fallen victims to the more and more aggressive Chinese espionage and Communist propaganda here in Australia. In a sense, that’s a violation of sovereignty.

“Surely, there have been clear instances of PRC violations of Australian sovereignty in recent years… In 2015, for example, Chinese undercover police pursued a fugitive on Australian territory. Importantly, in that case, Beijing admitted its wrongdoing,” said Andrew Chubb of Princeton University.

According to Andrew, “Interference with the political freedoms of residents of Australia, such as intimidation of dissidents’ families in China, also arguably violates Australia’s sovereignty in a broad sense.”

“Policymakers in Beijing may dream of coordinating a vast conspiracy involving ethnic Chinese all over the world advancing the CCP’s interests, but that does not make it a reality.” He added.

Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University. He has a typical story to tell about CCP interference.

“Academics in Australia might reflect on the fact that scholarly books critical of the Chinese Communist Party are now shunned by publishers. Scholars who work on China know that continued access to the country requires them to play by Beijing’s rules, which for most means self-censorship – the dirty secret of China studies in Australia.”

“In the course of researching my book (Silent Invasion), I spoke with pastors at Chinese churches in Australia who believe their congregations and community groups have Communist Party agents spying on behalf on the consulate. Some Chinese-Australians cannot even go to their places of worship without Beijing’s vast security apparatus watching and reporting on them.”

It is the CCP and its local embassy that has caused the division and disorder of the local Chinese community.

Miles Kwok, the exiled Chinese billionaire who has been whistle-blowing on social media, pledged that “major Australian government departments have been corrupted by Chinese donations”. Australian corrupt officials should be responsible for expansion of Chinese influence in Australia, making the country’s economy rely too much on Chinese investment and exports to China.

In a published article, Bob Carr defended his term of service for over 10 years as premier of New South Wales and as former Australian foreign minister.

Curiously, “China panic” headlines about the menace of Chinese students and developer donations failed to inflame mass opinion. 

It (Malcolm Turnbull’s resetting the Australia-China relationship) coincided with a “China panic” in the Australian media, which vastly exaggerated the modest – even meagre – evidence of China elevating its soft power Down Under. Anti-China zealots had portrayed Australia’s 120,000 Chinese students as promoters of Chinese Communist Party ideology. The prime minister’s speech-writer John Garnaut even wrote that “racial chauvinism is only one of the challenges that Beijing is exporting” to universities. The incendiary rhetoric was unsupported by any evidence.

The 2016 Census found Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry. Many came to Australia because of resenting the Communist oppression.

According to government data, more than 125,000 Chinese nationals were enrolled at Australian universities in May this year, and students from China make up 62 per cent of international student enrollments at Group of Eight universities.

Chinese students bring in cash as well as a demand for more housing.

Although research by University of Sydney shows that rising tensions over housing affordability is the result of a lack of oversight and enforcement from a federal bureaucracy, local residents have developed a deep-seated fear of foreign property investment and blame Chinese buyers for driving up home prices.

I come by a report that this year, there is a plunge in number of Chinese residents granted Australian citizenship. Department of Home Affairs data shows just 1,559 Chinese-born residents granted citizenship during the first eight months of this financial year – a fraction of the 6,500 successful Chinese applications in 2016-17. Racial resentment may have given rise to this drop.

There is another side of the picture. Many Chinese Australians blame China’s Communist government and its corrupt officials who have invested heavily in Australia’s property market and pushed the housing prices to crazy heights. After they have ruined the lives of many Chinese domestically, these corrupt officials have now come overseas to poison the livelihood of the overseas Chinese.

In 1989, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke did not consult cabinet before making a famous, tearful decision to allow 42,000 Chinese (including 16,200 students) to stay after the Tiananmen Square massacre. These first residents have brought in at least another 200 thousand in the past 30 years and they have been thankful for Hawke’s “wise decision”.

Australia has a proud heritage and an enduring cultural identity. The nation, like the USA, is a melting pot made up of different ethnic, religious and national groups all deserving equal treatment and respect.

Many Chinese Australians who have obtained Australian citizenship still keep a national identity culturally as Chinese. But as Australians, they have the right not to favour CCP and say NO to the Chinese government.

March 22, 2018, A private trip to return his father’s ashes to the land of his birth, turned sour for Chinese-born Australian John Hugh as he was denied entry in Shanghai airport.

“I think the message that John’s deportation from China sends to the Chinese-Australian community is quite simple and blunt and that is that if you criticise the Chinese Communist party than we will punish you if we can,” Mr Clive Hamilton said.

“Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is.”That is a popular propaganda slogan from a patriotic Chinese action movie “Wolf Warriors 2”. It reflects the ideology of the Communist Party to put class struggle above all else.

On 29th August, a national conference for representatives of returned overseas Chinese and their relatives was convened in Beijing, calling for unity and contribution to the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Dream.

Are the greetings to overseas Chinese a gesture of openness and tolerance or just hypocrite drops of crocodile tears?

Today more and more overseas Chinese have stood up against the CCP as they come to know about the nature of the Party, and they have supported Trump’s trade war.

According to today’s Reuters, the United States, Australia, France and Britain will open new embassies in the Pacific, boost staffing levels, and engage with leaders of island nations more often in a bid to counter China’s rising influence in the region. Forces from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga will next week join two weeks of military drills off Australia’s northern coast, along with personnel from the United States, France and Japan.

As Australian citizens, Chinese Australians shall have a national identity belonging to Australia; and at the same time they are an important force to promote value tolerance, equality, the peaceful solutions of disputes, and a spirit of cooperation.

But in case of war, which side should overseas Chinese stand at? Would the Communist Party of China be so stupid as to push them to the side of “enemies”?

Staff Writer

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