Lawmaker takes heat for ‘putting up with racism’ comment
A senator from Australia's ruling coalition has been criticized two weeks before the May 21 federal election, after he thanked the Chinese-Australians for “putting up with racism.”
Addressing participants at the Chinese Australian Forum on Friday, the Liberal Party senator for New South Wales Andrew Bragg admitted that, amid the coronavirus pandemic and tensions in bilateral relations with Beijing, his country has seen an increase in the number of racist incidents involving Chinese nationals. He claimed that much of the political rhetoric about China had been “at times unsophisticated” and emphasized that racism was unacceptable.
“Thank you for your steadfastness, thank you for putting up with some intemperate rhetoric at times, thank you for putting up with racism at times. It’s not good,” he said.
These remarks immediately sparked outrage among Bragg's political opponents and social media users, with one saying they show “a terrible tone-deafness.”
“To hear Senator Bragg attempting to distance himself from the racist comments and the actions of his colleagues, while at the same time seeming to present racism as something inevitable that he thanks us for putting up with, was insulting and offensive,” New South Wales state member of parliament Jenny Leong said, as quoted by AP.
She also accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government of “trying to woo local Chinese communities for electoral advantage, while at the same time whipping up anti-Chinese sentiment to serve their broader political agenda.”
Bilateral relations between Canberra and Beijing suffered a major blow in 2020 when the Australian government pushed for an independent investigation into the causes of the coronavirus pandemic without consulting China, which then blasted the call “a joke.”
In November 2020, China's embassy released a list of the country's grievances against Australia, which included, besides the called-for inquiry into Covid’s origins, state funding for “anti-China” research, visa issues, raids on Chinese journalists, and “spearheading a crusade” on China's affairs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Recent weeks have seen rising tensions between the two countries over the Solomon Islands. Australia, the biggest aid donor to the islands, has criticized that state’s draft security pact with China.
Scott Morrison warned that Beijing building a naval base on the Solomon Islands would be a “red line” for Australia though he did not specify what exactly his statement meant.
According to research by the Lowy Institute published in spring 2021 amid the escalating tensions between Australia and China, 18% of Chinese-Australians had been physically threatened or attacked in the past year because of their Chinese heritage.
Citing high numbers of incidents involving Chinese nationals, Beijing media has been accusing Canberra of “chronic” racism.