Chinese-Australian group to rally against Hong Kong protests

John Power

A group of Chinese-Australians are planning to rally on Saturday against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, calling for a return of law and order in the city and an end to what they say are biased portrayals of China in Australia.

In the latest sign of unrest in Hong Kong rippling overseas, the group will demonstrate in downtown Sydney to denounce what they say are riots that have challenged China’s sovereignty and prompted discrimination against them in Australia.

The “Hong Kong No Riot” event calls on Chinese-Australians to resist efforts by the “outside world” to split Hong Kong from China, taking aim at pro-Hong Kong democracy events at Australian universities and Western media coverage of the protests.

Hong Kong has been rocked by nearly three months of unrest over a now-shelved extradition bill, with the city’s airport this week becoming the latest battleground for violence between protesters, police and mainland Chinese.

Protesters at the State Library in Sydney, Australia, protest against Hong Kong’s (now withdrawn) extradition bill. Photo: Reuters

The bill, which was suspended in June in the face of fierce public opposition, would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China, where critics say a fair trial is not guaranteed.

The upcoming Sydney protest, which has been promoted through a dedicated Chinese-language website and recruited supporters on Chinese social media platform WeChat, lists nine demands.

These include an end to violence in Hong Kong, the safeguarding of “one country, two systems” and a halt to “provocative commentary” about Hong Kong on Australian university campuses.

Although the event’s website makes numerous references to China’s national sovereignty, an organiser said the main purpose was to highlight how controversy over Hong Kong had negatively impacted Chinese-Australians.

“This matter is creating tensions between Australian-Chinese and Australians,” said the organiser, who did not wish to be named, adding that Australians should know the “truth” about the protests.

The organiser, a naturalised citizen who migrated to Australia more than 20 years ago, criticised media coverage as biased in favour of the pro-democracy protesters.

“I believe that is why a lot of the Australian people have got it misunderstood,” he said.

Have Singaporeans misunderstood the nature of Hong Kong protests?

The organiser, who works in finance, said he expected about 300 people to attend.

James Laurenceson, acting director of the Australia-China Relations Institute in Sydney, said the protest should be viewed in the context of the huge number of Chinese living in the state.

“Let’s see how many people show up. Here’s a benchmark number to keep in mind – at the last census, there were 234,506 mainland China-born residents in New South Wales,” said Laurenceson. “As for a counter-protest taking place [against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong], I can’t say I’m surprised and unless it is overtaken by violent and racist elements, then I’m left feeling pretty relaxed.”

About 150 international students, parents and others protest against Hong Kong’s extradition bill in Adelaide, Australia. File photo

NSW Police Force said it was aware of plans for what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration.

A separate pro-Beijing protest in Melbourne was cancelled, according to organisers on WeChat, after the City of Melbourne announced that a permit for the demonstration circulating online under its name had been fabricated.

How Chinese students became a subject of scorn

The demonstration in Sydney comes as the Hong Kong protests have sent reverberations across Australian university campuses, leading to tensions and physical altercations between students from mainland China and Hong Kong.

Last month, pro-democracy student protesters and mainland Chinese students clashed at the University of Queensland in Brisbane during a sit-in held in solidarity with anti-extradition bill demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students clash during a pro-democracy protest at the university of Queensland in Australia. Photo: Twitter

The university came in for scrutiny over its handling of the incident after it emerged it had appointed Xu Jie, the Chinese consul-general in Brisbane, as a visiting professor of language and culture at the school.

Following the clashes, Xu praised mainland Chinese counterprotesters for their “acts of patriotism”, and The Sydney Morning Herald later reported that the family of a pro-democracy student had been approached in China by authorities and warned against political dissent.

Hong Kong, mainland students clash at New Zealand university

Australia last year passed new laws against foreign interference amid growing fears of Chinese influence, straining relations with Beijing.

Education Minister Dan Tehan last month announced his department would examine whether Confucius Institutes, Beijing-funded educational organisations that are hosted by more than a dozen Australian universities, should be included on the country’s new foreign influence register.

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