Chinese students have spoken out after an alleged attack at a Canberra bus interchange.
The fallout over the alleged attack on international students has also reached the Chinese mainland, where it has sparked criticism of the response by authorities and warnings about the future of Australia’s lucrative education export market.
Chinese students have taken to social media to share their concerns in the wake of the incident on October 23, which reportedly left one Chinese secondary school student hospitalised and three others injured.
Two juveniles have faced court over the alleged attack.
A Canberra student who did not want to be identified told SBS World News she knew some of those allegedly set upon by the two attackers. The student said she did not believe it was racially motivated but that it had nonetheless left Chinese students fearful.
“I still think Chinese [people] are safe here in Canberra but there is the fear among Chinese students now that this issue has led to a certain amount of tension,” she said.
Another student, who spoke to SBS Mandarin on the condition of anonymity, said she counted herself among those now avoiding the Woden interchange.
“[This week] I either ask my boyfriend to accompany me, or catch a taxi, or take days off, I don’t dare to go there…not even [in] daytime!”
Volunteer drivers offering to collect students wishing to avoid the area have been mobilised via the social media app WeChat, which has been flooded with negative comments about Australia following the incident.
“I said more than once that Australia is an anti-China western country but benefit the most from China. Unbelievable,” said user Happylife203.
“Probably learn some kungfu [sic] before going overseas. A minority of Australian youth is public enemy,” said another, Philpweibo.
The sentiment has been picked up by the Chinese media, with a scathing editorial in national newspaper the Global Times warning such incidents could be a turning point for the country’s multibillion-dollar education market.
“If Australia believes the utter attraction of its education resource to Chinese families that Chinese students will have to go to Australia even after being bashed, Australian government and police could thus underplay the incident,” it said.
“However, apparently, Australian schools are not that irreplaceable.”
“The whole Australia is not that important to China. It would benefit more if it understands that it should behave itself in Asia by tucking its tail between legs rather than be cocky. ”
Chin Wong, president of the ACT Chinese Australian Association, said while the police and education authorities had been helpful “they probably didn’t realise [initially] that it has affected the whole community”.
“At the moment they [the community] are scared and a few of them, the young ones, they are a little bit traumatized,” Ms Wong said.
“I think the misunderstanding is that [the students] felt that the police have done nothing, which is why the information has spread across WeChat.”
ACT Policing said it had “engaged with the Chinese community and increased patrols in and around the public transport interchanges throughout the ACT”.
It was not believed the attack was racially motivated, a police spokeswoman said.
An ACT Education Directorate spokesperson said it acted as soon as it became aware of the alleged assault.
“Since the incident ACT Education Directorate staff have spoken directly to all of the international students involved and has made counselling services and other supports available,” the spokesperson said.
“We have reminded international students about personal safety and protection measures to ensure they are safe and well.”
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Australia issued a warning to Chinese students in Australia over the weekend, advising students to stay alert when going to affected areas and to contact police and report emergencies to relevant authorities.