The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a disturbing rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia where people of Chinese heritage account for 5% of the country's 25 million residents.
A poll found that one in five Chinese Australians have been physically threatened or attacked over the past year. The problem has become so bad that the Chinese government had to issue a travel advisory for students going to Australia, warning them to take precautions.
Australians aren't denying the issue, either.
A study published by The Guardian found that 44% of Australians say they have "very negative" or "somewhat negative" feelings towards Chinese Australians – a nearly three-fold increase from 13% in 2013. They claim their negative feelings stem from the pandemic, the political rhetoric of Donald Trump, and a media atmosphere that encourages "creeping distrust" of Australians of Chinese heritage. Relationships between both countries were also strained when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of the virus.
While it was originally believed that it emerged from wet markets in Wuhan, there is reason to believe it may have escaped from a virology lab in the area.
"For quite some time, there has been continuous discrimination in Australia against people of Asian origins, including overseas Chinese, which poses serious threats to the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in Australia," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
One brave Australian of Chinese descent made a dramatic display of defiance against the rising tide of racism in the country by destroying a racist sign posed in a Melbourne suburb. The sign read "Made in China - Covid-19," a reference to the virus's emergence from that part of the world in late 2019.
The video was shared with a caption that read: "Say no to racism."
"A friend told me someone posted a sign insulting Chinese people — saying coronavirus is from China," the man told the camera.
"We have to remove it," he said. The man then sliced it up with an electric saw and pounded it off the post with a hammer. He then took the saw and cut the sign into even smaller pieces.
The video received widespread praise when it first appeared on TikTok.
"Can't believe this is happening in 2021. Hope the cowards responsible for this are held accountable," one commenter said.
"No matter where [the virus] is from, it shouldn't lead to racism - that's never forgivable," another wrote.
Racial prejudice in any form is completely unacceptable. But it's bewildering that people would lash out against a group of people just because a virus emerged from the country of their heritage. An Australian of Chinese decent living in Melbourne has as much to do with the spread of the virus as a person of any other ethnic background.
The situation in Australia goes to show that when things get tough, there are always those who will look for a scapegoat. The man with the saw and hammer deserves a lot of love for taking an aggressive stand against racism. Hopefully, his act of defiance inspires others to do the same.
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