Queensland authorities have called for an immediate end to an increasing spate of racist attacks on the state’s Chinese community in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said had been at least 22 offences committed against members of the Asian-Australian community in Queensland in recent weeks.
She said the offences ranged from wilful damage and public nuisance to robberies and assaults.
“This is abhorrent behaviour — we all need to respect each other. We are all Queenslanders and we are all Australians,” Ms Carroll said.
She said the abuse came in a variety of forms, with a significant number of attacks starting online.
“Graffiti with abusive language assaults, where people are being purposely assaulted, bumped into and abused, or just racially abused as people are walking past people … it comes in all forms,” she said.
‘We are all suffering together’
Michael Ma, the secretary-general of the Queensland Chinese United Council, said the state’s Chinese community was increasingly being subjected to discrimination.
Mr Ma said he understood people’s fear but coronavirus was not a Chinese virus.
He said attacks against the Chinese community had been getting increasingly worse.
“From verbal abuses to refused services to being spat on and even physical attacks … the Chinese-Australian community is an integral part of Australia and we are also suffering as a consequence of this pandemic,” he said.
“People are angry, they are unsure about their own future, they’ve lost their jobs.
“I can understand the emotion because members of my own community have also lost their jobs — we are also victims of this pandemic.
“We are all suffering together. The last thing we want to do is divide our community.
“There are increasing incidents of abuse.
“People take their anger [out] on people who perhaps look differently to them, behave differently to them.
“As a multicultural nation, we need to call it out … that [discrimination] is unacceptable, that is un-Australian.”
‘We are all one’
Police Minister Mark Ryan said even a generous donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Chinese community had prompted a backlash.
“I’m calling it out today, the Commissioner’s calling it out today, the Government’s calling it out today, and quite frankly the community calls it out today,” Mr Ryan said.
“We are all one. Do not let the current challenges, the current crises facing our country, our nation, our world, undermine the very strengths of our community, those strengths of generosity, diversity and kindness.
“Do not let this current crisis destroy your humanity by resorting to hurtful, racist and quite unacceptable statements.”
Multicultural Affairs Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said there were some extreme right-wing activists using the COVID-19 crisis to attack members of the community.
“I have some empathy and appreciation for people who are living through fear and having some pretty difficult circumstances in their own lives … and might get taken down the path of a racist response,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“I have absolutely no empathy for those people who have strategically made the decision to use this current circumstance to inflame division in our community.”