Provocation against the Chinese-Australian community has been “reprehensible”

APAC News Chinese Australians have been subjected to unwarranted abuse

Australia’s Prime Minister calls out those who’ve attacked the Chinese-Australian community

Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledges the demonisation of Chinese-Australians in the face of the coronavirus outbreak

5 February 2020 | Marcus Reubenstein

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged that Chinese-Australians have faced numerous unwarranted attacks over the coronavirus, while heaping praise on the Chinese-Australian community for its response.

Speaking in Canberra this morning, the prime minister says, “Can I say thank you to the Chinese-Australian community you are magnificent.”

“The way you have supported each other, the way you have acted in such a responsible fashion, on occasion with great provocation which I found reprehensible.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

There have been reports of Chinese-Australians facing random abuse on the streets, as well as being targeted for criticism in workplaces and at least one report of a café in the outer western suburbs of Sydney brandishing a two-metre wide hand written sign reading, “The Corona Virus won’t last long because it was made in China.”

Many of the targets of these unwarranted attacks are Australian citizens, residents and indeed Australian-born citizens of Chinese heritage.

On top of this there have been numerous attacks – and overwhelming false reports – across social media; and misreporting across mainstream media outlets. Not helping was a front-page headline in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper on 29 January which read, “Chinese Virus PANDAMONIUM”.

The News Corp-owned Melbourne tabloid still refuses to acknowledge the offence that headline caused despite nearly 70,000 signatures gathered on an online petition calling for an apology.

Of the Chinese-Australian community response, Prime Minister Morrison says, “You are observing and taking so seriously your responsibilities together with all Australians to ensure that so far we’ve been quite successfully able to contain the impact of the coronavirus within Australia.”

“So I say to the Chinese community in Australia, thank you. Thank you to the way that you have engaged.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

He also had praise for Chinese-Australian federal member of parliament, Gladys Liu, “I want to say a particular thank you to Gladys Liu who has been a real community leader in getting information to people on this issue and providing them great encouragement and support to the community.”

Chinese-Australian Liberal MP, Gladys Liu praised for her action in keeping Chinese community informed about the virus (supplied)

More flights out of Wuhan

The first arrivals from the special chartered Qantas flight from Wuhan already settled in the temporary quarantine station located at Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean around 1,500 km of the northwest coast of Australia.  

There are 240 Australian citizens and permanent residents on the island, where there has been criticism over the conditions, with reports of unsanitary conditions and unpreparedness for the arrivals.

Prime Minister Morrison says, “We are working on a further flight to Wuhan and that is the process we are now in. I would say to those more broadly in China if you are an Australian citizen, if you are an Australian resident, if you are an immediate family member of those which would include a legal guardian or if your are a 444 visa holder as a New Zealander living in Australia then you will be entitled to return to Australia subject to imposing the 14 day self-isolation.”

The prime minister announced that Qantas has scheduled flights leaving China until 9 February, however, says Australians in other parts of China should not expect to be a position where the Australian government will send flights as it has done in Wuhan.

China travel ban announcement

Prime Minister Morrison also gave an explanation of Saturday’s (2 February) decision to publicly announce a 14-day ban on flights arriving from China, before having briefed Chinese officials.

The PM says it was a very fast decision making process based on discussions with all of the state, territory and commonwealth chief medical officers, followed by a meeting of the National Security Committee.

According to Mr. Morrison the decision was made at 4:00pm and an attempt to make contact with Chinese officials was made within half an hour. However, contact was only made shortly after 5:00pm, by which time a news conference to announce the ban had already commenced.

The PM characterised the timing as unfortunate and said the Chinese government was “very high on the list” of people it contacted.  

He also says, he “respectfully” disagrees with calls to financially compensate international students and others trying to return to Australia who have been negatively impacted by the government’s travel bans from China.