Chinese Australians feel heat from worsening diplomatic friction

Chinese Australians feel heat from worsening diplomatic friction

As some chafe at questions of loyalty, others welcome scrutiny of Beijing

SINGAPORE — When three Chinese Australians appeared in front of an Australian Senate Committee in October to testify about community relations, they might have expected an anodyne hearing typical of the legislative chamber.

But then Eric Abetz, a Liberal Party senator from Tasmania, asked the trio — one of whom was born in Australia — if they would be “unconditionally willing to condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship.”

The question set off a furor, with some denouncing Abetz as a racist who had demanded a loyalty test. The right-wing senator, who also has the support of some anti-Beijing Chinese Australians, has refused to apologize.

Ethnic Chinese have been in Australia for over 150 years, including through the White Australia policy of the early 20th century that severely restricted Asian immigration. But the trade and diplomatic spat between Beijing and Canberra that has steadily intensified since 2018 has put the community under more pressure than at any time in recent memory. Fissures also persist between Chinese Australian groups with different political views.