Tens of thousands of Australians have urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to condemn a Liberal Senator’s questioning of three Chinese Australians at a Senate committee hearing.
- Petitioners urge the Prime Minister to break his silence and condemn Senator Abetz
- Senator Abetz denied that his questioning was based on race or ethnicity
- An open letter coincided with the petitions, which were signed by 130 people, including prominent Labor and Green figures
Petitions were received from Osmond Chiu, GetUp! and the Asian Australian Alliance to Kirribilli House, the official residence of Mr. Morrison in North Sydney.
Osmond Chiu, Wesa Chau and Yun Jiang said they were asked about their loyalty by Senator Eric Abetz and asked to “unconditionally condemn the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party.”
More than 25,000 people have signed the GetUp petitions! and Color Code, which criticizes Senator Abetz’s comments as “discriminatory” and “unacceptable” and calls on the coalition leadership to break their silence.
“The silence is extremely disappointing,” Osmond Chiu, a researcher at the Per Capita think tank, told ABC.
“It sends a signal of tolerance for its behavior that is detrimental to social cohesion in Australia, and affirms that Chinese Australians are only selected for their cultural background.
Senator Abetz rejects claims
In response to the ABC, Senator Abetz said the question to Mr. Chiu was not based on race or ethnicity and that there were no “loyalty tests”.
“Firstly, the judgment sought was not the alleged CCP, but the dictatorship of the CCP. It is insincere to carefully avoid this element, ”he said.
“It is correct that no other witnesses were questioned about the dictatorship, which included other groups of Witnesses of Chinese descent.
“I make an absolutely clear distinction between the Chinese people and the dictatorship.”
However, former Prime Ministers Malcom Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have both condemned Senator Abetz’s statements.
So far, no MPs or senators in the coalition have criticized Senator Abetz directly.
Tessa Pang, a spokeswoman for GetUp !, said the silence of the coalition leadership speaks volumes.
“If Morrison is silent at this moment, he is effectively condoning Senator Abetz’s behavior and painting a terrifying picture of government content to encourage prejudice against people based on their skin color,” she told ABC.
“This is an extremely multicultural country and our diversity of backgrounds is something that needs to be celebrated, not questioned.”
Jenny Leong, MP for the NSW Greens, agreed.
“The actions of Senator Abetz [Osmond Chiu, Yun Jiang and Wesa Chau] were unacceptable and we cannot allow them to go unchallenged, “she told ABC.
The incident has sparked racist tension in the diaspora community.
Tim Lo Surdo, the national director of the Australian anti-racism group Democracy in Color, has a Sino-Australian background.
“When we decided to take an interest in political spaces and help shape what society could be, we were excluded and exposed to cruel discriminatory and, to be honest, abhorrent behavior.”
Open letter signed by prominent Green Labor MPs
The petitions coincided with an open letter sent Thursday to Mr Morrison and incumbent Immigration Secretary Alan Tudge asking Senator Abetz to apologize to the three witnesses at the hearing and to decline his actions.
The letter was signed by more than 130 Australians, including politicians, union leaders, community groups and individuals. About a third of them have a Sino-Australian background.
Signatories included Federal Labor front benchmarks Tanya Plibersek and Andrew Giles, as well as Green leader Adam Bandt.
Senator Abetz said the letter “repeats the wrong story from Labor members”.
A spokesman for Mr Morrison declined to comment on the petition but referred to Mr Morrison’s comments last month on the controversy.
“There is only one promise that every Australian citizen should keep and that is the promise they make when they become an Australian citizen.”
Mr. Abetz did not respond directly to the petition either, but repeated the Prime Minister’s remark.
“Australia has welcomed migrants from China for more than 200 years, and Australians with a Chinese background have made a tremendous contribution to our nation,” he told ABC.
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