China’s top education authority has warned students about the risks of attending Australian universities, citing concerns of growing racism against the country’s Asian community.
“During the pandemic, there have been multiple incidents of discrimination against Asian people in Australia,” China’s Ministry of Education said in a statement Tuesday. “At this moment, (people) should carefully consider the choice to attend or return to Australian schools.”
The announcement came just four days after China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism sounded a similar alarm for Chinese nationals traveling to Australia. The ministry said racial discrimination and violence against Asians, and specifically Chinese, in Australia had “increased significantly” amid the coronavirus crisis.
On Wednesday, Australia’s education minister Dan Tehan rejected China’s claim that Australia was an unsafe destination.
“Australia’s multicultural success is based on our respect for all Australians and visitors, including international students, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality,” he said.
Vicki Thomson, the chief executive of Group of Eight, an alliance of top Australian universities, also called China’s notice “disappointing and unjustified.”
Chinese students make up the majority of international students in Australia. Data suggests that over 260,000 Chinese were enrolled at Australian schools in 2019.
Australia was also one of the first countries to ban people traveling or transiting from the Chinese mainland in early February, a move that affected thousands of Chinese students on holiday. About two-thirds of Chinese students at Australian universities were stuck abroad when the restrictions were imposed, according to statistics from the Australian government.
Diplomatic tensions between the two countries escalated after Australian officials called for an independent inquiry into the early response to the coronavirus outbreak. This position irked China and stoked fears over potential economic damage. Australian states are currently debating whether to lift international travel restrictions in an effort to boost the domestic economy amid the pandemic.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Students take photos during a college graduation ceremony in Perth, Australia, Feb. 11, 2012. People Visual)