Government and universities reject Chinese claims Australia is racist and unsafe

Education minister Dan Tehan rejected claims that Australia was unsafe for Chinese students. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Education minister Dan Tehan rejected claims that Australia was unsafe for Chinese students. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Australian government and university sector has rejected China's claims that prospective students should reconsider their studies because of risks posed by racism and the coronavirus pandemic.

China's Education Bureau issued a statement warning Chinese students about racist incidents targeting Asians as well as health risks posed by COVID-19.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan denied that Australia was unsafe for international students.

"Australia is a popular destination for international students because we are a successful, multicultural society that welcomes international students and provides a world-class education.

"Australia's multicultural success is based on our respect for all Australians and visitors, including international students, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality.

"Our success at flattening the curve means we are one of the safest countries in the world for international students to be based in right now."

Universities Australia's Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said Australia remained one of the safest countries in the world for international students.

"In terms of student welfare, Australia is one of the safest places in the world - and Australian universities are committed to making it even safer.

"In 2018, a survey of more than 80,000 international tertiary students found that personal safety and security is one of the top five factors for deciding to study in Australia - surpassed only by the quality of teaching and the reputation of the qualification.

"Any violent act is taken very seriously and reported to the police."

The statement comes after China's tourism ministry issued a travel warning for Australia citing increasing racism.

ACT Chinese Association patron Sam Wong said anecdotally there had been an increase in racist incidents against Chinese and other Asian students in the territory since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"They are frightened. Personally I know in Canberra there are students wearing masks who are being abused."

Mr Wong said he hoped there would be an end to the tit-for-tat reactions between the two countries so the mutual benefits of trade, education and cultural exchange could be realised.

"These students pay lots of money to study and learn about Australia and come back home. They really become ambassadors for Australia.

"They will certainly encourage their businesses to have a better connection with Australia."

Universities Australia estimates in 2018-19 Chinese students studying in Australia's 39 universities contributed $7.2 billion to Australia's international education export income.

At the Australian National University, about 3000 Chinese international students are currently studying on shore and about 1600 Chinese students are studying off shore.

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ANU Chancellor Julie Bishop said the university was a diverse community and that it would continue to welcome students from all over the world.

"Canberra is one of the safest cities in a country widely regarded as one of the safest in the world.

"Our students consistently tell us that their time at ANU is positively life-changing.

"We have worked hard to keep all our international students engaged with their studies during this global pandemic and the vast majority of our students affected by the pandemic have remained enrolled with ANU."

This story Government, universities reject Chinese claims Australia is racist and unsafe first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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