An Australian survey of more than 3,000 people has found more than 80 percent of Asian Australians have reported racial discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research is published as Australia marks the 45th anniversary of its Racial Discrimination Act.
The Australian National University study has revealed that 84.5 percent of Asian Australians reported at least one case of discrimination between January and October this year during the coronavirus pandemic. Many have experienced xenophobia and racism, including physical assaults and verbal threats.
The university survey has also shown that Asian Australians were more likely to have jobs and careers adversely affected by coronavirus lockdowns and they were more anxious about the pandemic than the broader community.
Researchers believe a spike in racial attacks and abuse is being driven by the fact that the coronavirus was first detected in China, and by mounting political tensions between Beijing and Canberra.
Jason Yat-Sen Li is the president of the Chinese-Australia Forum, a non-partisan organization.
“It has been pretty awful at a number of levels. I mean, I think Asian-Australians, in particular Chinese-Australians, have really been crunched by all this stuff that has been going on: the rising anti-CCP (Communist Party of China) rhetoric, this whole narrative that this is a China virus, this was something that China brought to the world and it is China’s fault. There is always a little bit of underlying, sort of, racism and prejudice anyway, and so these three things come together in a perfect storm," Yat-Sen Li said.
The university research is published as Australia’s commemorates the 45th anniversary of its Racial Discrimination Act. The act made it illegal to treat someone unfairly because of their race. Events to mark the introduction of the law in 1975 have focused on racist attacks on Asian groups in Australia during the pandemic.
After the United Kingdom, China is the country of origin for the second largest migrant community in Australia, making up about 2.5 percent of the total population.
China has repeatedly accused Australia of being racist and in July warned its citizens not to travel here. Australia’s call earlier this year for a global inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 infuriated China, but geopolitical tensions have been festering long before that flashpoint.
Analysts have said Australia has been firm but measured in its response but must tread carefully because China is its biggest trading partner.