Chinese diplomats warn students in Australia to stay alert to safety risks after spate of attacks
Consulate in Melbourne issues alert following string of incidents
The Chinese consulate in Melbourne has warned Chinese students of potential threats to their safety in the wake of a series of attacks.
“Recently, there have been several cases of assaults and attacks against Chinese students in different parts in Australia,” the consulate said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday.
“We remind all Chinese overseas students in Australia to be wary of possible safety risks in Australia,” the statement said in Mandarin.
The consulate did not specify any instances of students being targeted but urged anyone who found themselves in a dangerous situation to call the police and report the incident to the embassy or local consulate.
In October three students from China were allegedly assaulted by two youths at a Canberra bus station after they declined a request to give them cigarettes. One of the students required hospital treatment and the two youths were later arrested.
The case triggered an outcry among local Chinese communities who called for the government to act. They warned that the attack, which they said was not an isolated case, could damage the capital’s reputation as a safe destination for foreign students as well as Chinese attitudes towards Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
In another high-profile incident in August, an undergraduate from Australian National University was accused of attacking his tutor and classmates with a baseball bat. Four Chinese students needed hospital treatment.
On Tuesday the suspect Alex Ophel, 18, was committed to stand trail on charges of attempted murder and denied bail, The Canberra Times reported.
Although there are no known incidents of Chinese students being attacked in Melbourne, anti-Chinese posters were put up at two universities in the city in July before being swiftly removed and condemned by the academic authorities.
Australia is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students. In 2015, Chinese students made up 27 per cent of international students in the country, according to figures from the Australian Department of Education and Training.
But tensions between Canberra and Beijing have been growing in the past year over alleged Chinese political interference in Australian politics and diplomacy.
Australian Labor Party Senator Sam Dastyari announced his resignation last week after being accused of being too close to Chinese donors, including wealthy Chinese-Australian businessman Huang Xiangmo. Dastyari also faced allegations he had gone against his party’s policy to support China’s stance in the South China Sea dispute.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly warned against Chinese interference in the country’s political process.
Beijing has furiously denied allegations that it is meddling in Australian politics. In an editorial last week, People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, said that accusations of Chinese interference by the Australian media and government were “biased and paranoid”.