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Covid-19-related racism on the rise

One in four people who lodged racial discrimination complaints in the last two months said the attacks were COVID-19 related. However, it is believed most attacks go unreported. Photo: Thiszun/Pexels


Video has emerged of one of latest in a series of racist attacks on Chinese people fuelled by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The video, posted to YouTube on Monday 30 March, shows a man cracking a bullwhip while on a racist tirade outside the Chinese consulate in Camperdown, in Sydney’s inner west.

The incident went on for several minutes, with the Akubra-clad man threatening violence against members of the consulate staff and blaming members of the public visiting the consulate for “deliberately” spreading the virus. The man in the video remains unidentified and NSW police said they received no complaints about the incident and did not attend the scene.

The shocking attack is just one of many racist attacks faced by people of Asian appearance that have come in the wake of coronavirus.

According to Australian Human Rights Commission data seen by the ABC, one in four people who lodged racial discrimination complaints in the last two months said the attacks were COVID-19 related.

The data also revealed that the highest number of racial discrimination complaints of the financial year were filed in February, with a third of the complaints explicitly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In March just under a quarter of discrimination complaints were related to coronavirus. While raw numbers cannot be released due to strict confidentiality requirements, the ABC reported that the commission received “dozens” of complaints every month.

Most racist attacks on Asians ‘probably unreported’
To get a fuller picture of incidences of coronavirus-related racism, activist and writer Erin Chew of Being Asian Australian and advocacy network the Asian Australian Alliance have set up a survey to document these occurrences.

“A number of these incidents have been reported to the police or featured on Australian/global news/media outlets,” the group explains on their website. “However, it is most likely that a large portion of these incidents would go unreported, and the purpose of this reporting mechanism is to capture enough data to understand the frequencies of these attacks that are related to the pandemic.”

With some incidents being widely reported, even Prime Minister Scott Morrison has addressed the issue. During his press conference on Thursday 2 April, Mr. Morrison praised the way that Australia’s Chinese community had responded to the crisis as being a “great example” for the broader Australian community.

“The Chinese-Australian community did an amazing job in those early days of the spread of the coronavirus,” Morrison said. “They showed all Australians back then how to do this. I want to thank them very, very much for the example they set in those early phases.”

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan, encourages Australians to “show kindness” and “support each other” as the crisis unfolds. “Members of the Chinese and other Asian communities, like every Australian, are already suffering and stressed by the impact of the pandemic, and should not have to endure additional fear of discrimination, abuse or violence because of their ethnicity,” he told the ABC.

Those who experience racial discrimination are encouraged to report the incidents to the Anti-Discrimination Commission by sending an email, submitting a complaint through the website or writing a letter. Only written complaints are accepted.

Instances of racism fuelled by COVID-19 can also be reported to the Asian-Australian Alliance’s “COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report” survey, for purposes of analysis.

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