The Sydney Opera House and a passing pedestrian are reflected in a window in Sydney, Australia. Picture: BLOOMBERG/Brent Lewin
The Sydney Opera House and a passing pedestrian are reflected in a window in Sydney, Australia. Picture: BLOOMBERG/Brent Lewin

Sydney — Three Australian citizens of Chinese ethnicity who were asked to condemn the Chinese Communist Party as they appeared before a government inquiry into diaspora issues have criticised the incident as being like “McCarthyism”.

A Senate committee is examining problems facing diaspora communities, and the three Chinese-Australians had been invited to attend a hearing on Wednesday.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has told the inquiry that diaspora communities are often victims of interference from foreign governments, and threats had been made against individuals on the basis of their political opinions.

Australia has a tense diplomatic relationship with China, its largest trading partner, and there has been intense domestic political debate and media coverage of allegations the Chinese government is involved in foreign interference.

There are also concerns that Chinese communities in Australia are experiencing racism as a by-product.

The Liberal senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, known for hawkish views on China, asked the three Chinese-Australians to “tell me whether they are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship”, a transcript shows.

Yun Jiang, a China analyst who previously worked in the office of prime minister and cabinet, had spoken to the committee about the “toxic environment for Chinese-Australians who engage in public policy debates right now”.

“Senator Abetz proceeded to interrogate each of us on our views of the Chinese Communist Party, as some sort of loyalty test”, Jiang said in a statement sent to Reuters on Thursday.

Wesa Chau, Labour’s deputy lord mayor candidate for Melbourne, said “in race-baiting McCarthyism, myself and two other Chinese-Australian witnesses were subjected to a public loyalty test”.

Chau is a board member of the Australian government’s National Foundation for Australia-China Relations.

“McCarthyism” refers to US Senator Joseph McCarthy’s much-vilified campaign in the 1950s to expose Communist sympathisers in the US, including in Hollywood and the arts.

Osmond Chiu of the Per Capita think-tank wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that he was born in Australia, and refused to answer Abetz’s question because it was demeaning.

Abetz responded in a statement on Thursday: “Standing firm against ugly dictatorships is everyone’s duty. I, therefore, make no apology for the exchange.”

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan wrote in a submission to the inquiry that a national anti-racism strategy is needed to protect Australia’s multicultural society because the country’s national security also depends on its capacity to protect unity.

“No Australian should have their loyalty to this country questioned or undermined because of their ethnic origin, nor should they be required to prove their loyalty,” Tan said, in comments reported by SBS, the multicultural broadcaster on Thursday. 


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