On Monday, two Chinese international students were assaulted and robbed on a train in Sydney by six teenagers aged 14 to 18 years old. Five were arrested including two girls.

Following the incident China’s consulate in Sydney warned local Chinese from unnecessary commuting at night on public transport.

The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper reported that what appears to be a racial attack has triggered anger amongst more than 3,000 students who are considering staging a rally against such race based assaults.

Xuan, one of the Chinese who was assaulted is studying for his Master’s degree at the University of Technology Sydney. He suffered from a fractured nose and burns from a cigarette.

Xuan later micro-blogged over Weibo saying “I really wish all of this is just a nightmare. However, the smell of blood in my mouth and body pains reminds me that this city is so dangerous.

A gang of hooligans attacked us. Our noses are fractured and our bodies are covered in blood. My friend’s cheekbone was crushed. They attacked us with glass and burnt us with lit cigarettes. My face is burnt and totally disfigured! Worst of all, I really hated their racist comments. They were calling us Asian dogs and pussies while they were beating us. When my friend tried to wipe blood from his nose, a teenage girl stuffed my friend’s mouth with her tampon removed from her pants.”

On Wednesday, however, the Chinese micro blogger deleted all the blogs related to the assault’s details to ensure his privacy and eliminate rumors in the comments attached to the posts.

In true technologically advanced fashion, former Australian Prime Minister and fomer Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd Weibo’d in Chinese “Apart from the two Chinese students, other people were also robbed. The attack was not directed at Chinese citizens,” said Rudd, who also expressed his hatred toward racism on his Mandarin micro blog.

Coming from Australia, I could directly see the growing number of mainland Chinese students in universities. Many are prepared to pay inflated ‘international’ tuition fees in order to secure a foreign education which is arguably more valuable in China. In many ways, Australia and other Western countries like America, UK and Canada use this demand to their advantage and essentially sell education. Now living in China, I see how determined Chinese students are to study abroad. They pay a lot of money to learn English and prepare for the SAT exams.

Given that Weibo allows information to be transferred instantly and widely, the perception of Chinese students about Australia will definitely be influenced about this incident. Unfortunately for Australia that works so hard to maintain a clean, safe image of multicultural tolerance, these limited events will make Chinese think twice about studying there. For the most part, Australia and Sydney is a very safe place. However, after living in Beijing I can see that Sydney is more dangerous and at a higher risk of racial attacks than China. To be honest, I feel safer walking around streets in Beijing late at night than in some parts of Sydney.

Overall I don’t believe it will greatly impact the trend for Chinese to want to study in China. But any country should be aware that social media is advanced in China and news whether true or false spreads quicker than nearly anywhere else. No longer does it take regular occurrences of bad things to happen like a series of racial attacks to get people talking. One incident on Weibo is enough to get everyone talking. For Australia and its universities that see international students as a cash cow, be aware, Weibo is your friend and enemy.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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17 Comments

  1. There are many attacks on Laowai’s here (non-Chinese looking) that also are never reported 

      1. My guess is that it reflects poorly on the country and its people. In this article, I’m sure the news reflects poorly on Australians. If the situation was reversed, do you think the gov’t would want others to feel the same way against this country? But of course…who knows. There’s rarely a rhyme or reason for what goes on many times.

    1. The racism in China is interested because there are both good and bad elements.

      For example, a Caucasian-looking person who speaks horrible English can still get hired as an English teacher over an Asian American who speaks fluent English.

      Also, it’s true that Western foreigners can get preferential treatment. Of course the downside is that most folks that treat them better are often focused on their money.

      The major difference though is that Westerners are often well represented in the media. For example, almost half of the movies feature Western actors and just about all the ads for luxury brands.

      Whereas in the West, you will only occasionally see Asians in the media or in ads. And if you do, they are often stereotyped poorly.

      1. The last part is true about Asians in the media now, but it’s been slowly getting better over the last few years. The percentage of Asian representation in the media is still lower in terms of the percentage that Asians represent in the population. It’s going to take some time though. After all, it’s a business and as bad as it sounds, Asians don’t “sell” as well as non-Asians in the entertainment industry (in the West). 

    1. Thanks for the correction! I’ve lived outside for too long :/ 
      Strange how the ex-NSW Premier became the Foreign Minister…

  2. I lived in Beijing for a number of years and within the last two to three years I had many racist attacks such as being kicked on the subway and shoved and called names all the time. I had a lighted cigarette thrown at me and paper and many times students tried to hit me with their bikes. I was also attacked when I first came to China late at night by a man who squeezed my face, it sounds funny but was frightening at the time.  It was mostly from university students. I reported this to the police and they told me how to deal with it and offered to help me.

    1. I hope that you actually were able to get some help when the police offered. I’ve had friends where the police don’t do anything. They simply say that there’s nothing they can do about it. One particular friend went to watch the CCTV footage and wanted a copy of the footage, but the police wouldn’t give it to him. They did allow him to print out a screenshot though. That’s the most they did for him. 

  3. Rabid Dogs Roam 

    Rabid dogs roamed the crowded carriage, 
    Attracted to the stench of fear. 
    Approaches an albino mongrel savage,
    Who directs them to a pair of oriental deer.Foreign in local customs and language,Tongue and limbs paralysed by the pact’s sneer. The pair; punched, pulled, pounded; ravaged, Dignity bruised and battered by racial jeer.If this were the extent, the pair would manageSadly, a bloodied plug was removed and used to smearPlaced in the mouth of one; His pride lavaged Self-esteem mortally wounded by this gory souvenir Satiated, the beasts leave through a passive passage. The pair nor the crowd protested; how queer. Evil Prevails when Good Men Fail To Act; a fitting adageGone are the days of fighting men and brave brigadiers Why did the pair not fight in exchange?Why did the public not object and cohere? Society teaches that aggression should be assuaged. Yet where were the officers who keep fiends clear? Learn to embrace rageProtect, honour, and defend; precepts of a chevalier When you or a stranger hurt, do not disengage FIGHT! Else taste the blood of a bitch’s rear.

  4. come on guys.. can the generalisations please stop? this was simply an isolated incident by lower class, poorly educated, and obviously badly parented kids… why do so many of the masses jump onto the media bandwagon when such incidents take place? how on earth do these scum (nicest word that comes to mind) represent Australia as a nation in its entirety? how do the acts if these “kids” represent a nation as a whole? that’s just plain ludicrous, please guys.. be more distrustful of the general media circus.. when there is nothing to report about they’ll conjure up their own brand of  “crazy” as they have always 

    I have been yelled and sworn at here in Shanghai whilst being affectionate, in a totally respectable manner, with my Chinese partner but i didn’t let that anger me, in fact I felt more sorry for the guy and his ignorant views that shut him off from the what life and the world has to offer..

    Heck, if i had it my way i would do away with “nations” and instead view the world as a mass of cultures. When will we stop the nationilist pride that is no different to immature sports fans? We are all humans, we all love, bleed, fear and laugh the same.. think about it sometime…

    i love China (where i now live and work), i love Australia (my home)… and do not for one second mention the word tolerance, its ACCEPTANCE that should be aimed for.. tolerance is merely bottling up one’s prejudices and not speaking them out which is actually anti-free if you consider it…

    to let physical and cultural differences divide us when we have so much more SIMILAR to each other than different is plain stupid.. “all we need is love” no wiser, truer and simpler words could ever be said…

    1. Hi Pete. Thanks for the comment. 

      I agree with you that these ‘scum’ do not represent Australia as a whole. I am from Sydney myself and believe Australia is a very tolerant AND accepting country made up of many different cultures. 

      My point is not to act as normal ‘Media’ and blow one incident out of proportion and say that all Australian’s are racist. The point was to illustrate the impact of how quickly perception can be influenced by new media such as Weibo. 

      1. Hi Jason,

        Apologies for not commenting upon your article Jason, my comments were directed and the general masses, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. My post seems to be in direct response to you since i had not replied to any one particular person so many apologies for the misunderstanding.

        I was just letting off some steam at my end in reaction to social comments and how people still resort to neanderthal patterns of thought and behaviour, not unlike that of the common ape 🙂 

      2. please excuse my spelling and/or grammar in parts.. its waaaaay past my bedtime 🙂

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