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Asian-Australians call for an end to anti-Asian sentiment at Sydney vigil

Protesters gathered for the #StopAsianHate vigil in Sydney. Photo: Twitter/Paddygibson

By ALLISON HORE

With anti-Asian racism on the rise, Asian-Australians in Sydney are calling for the federal government to tighten anti-racism laws. The call comes as part of the global #StopAsianHate campaign. 

According to a survey by the Asian Australian Alliance which launched in April last year, there have been 520 incidents reports of COVID-19 related racism incidents, or almost two racist incidents against Asian-Australians every day.

In an open letter to Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, Sydney’s Asian-Australian community have called for anti-racism laws and protections to be strengthened and for compulsory anti-racism education to be rolled out in schools across the country. 

Signatories of the letter are also calling upon Prime Minister Scott Morrison to acknowledge and condemn the growing anti-Asian sentiments in Australia.

The open letter was launched at a vigil outside Circular Quay on Saturday which was organised by the Asian Australian Alliance, Kozziecom, and member for Newtown, Jenny Leong. 

Speaking to the 100 protesters gathered at the vigil, Ms. Leong said the rise in attacks on Asian-Australians during the pandemic was concerning and damaged the social cohesion of communities. She said as a Chinese Australian she has lived experience of the increasing racism and hostility. 

“Whether it is racial violence or aggression, verbally or physically, it has an impact on our abilities as humans to enjoy full participation in our society,” she said.

“It’s crucial that we join together both as a local Sydney community and across the globe to #StopAsianHate.”

A survey conducted by the Lowy Institute last November revealed 18 percent of people of Chinese descent answered they have been physically threatened or attacked because of their heritage.

“First of its kind”

Although it is part of a global movement, Shona Yang from Kozziecom, a youtube channel which shares Korean Australian stories, said the vigil at Customs House was the first held in Australia. 

She said Asian-Australians have been quiet for a long time about the racism they face and said it was time to stand up against it. 

“It’s stereotypical for Asians to stay quiet on such matters, but we’re gathering to take a stand on issues around racism against Asians in Australia,” she said. 

“It shouldn’t take deaths, shootings and ridicule for our voices to be heard and taken seriously.”

In March the shooting of eight people across three spas in Atlanta, Georgia- including six Asian women- sparked #StopAsianHate protests across the United States. A spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said the perpetrator of the mass killing simply “had a bad day,” which, activists say, highlights the dismissive attitude of police towards racist hate crimes. 

According to the Asian Australian Alliance’s survey, 90 percent of Asian-hate victims did not report their experience to police. But Ms. Leong thinks it’s important not to be silent about these attacks. 

“We will continue to speak out. We will not be silent about the racism and discrimination that infects our society,” she said. 

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