Three witnesses who gave evidence to a Senate inquiry on issues affecting Australia’s Chinese diaspora refused to condemn the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP) when asked. They have since publicly criticised Senator Eric Abetz for his line of questioning.
Yun Jiang, Osmond Chiu, and Wesa Chau spoke to the inquiry about issues such as Beijing’s intimidation of Chinese Australians, systemic racism, and how community members avoid speaking out due to fears of being targeted by the Chinese regime.
When Abetz asked the witnesses whether they “are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship” they instead offered broad statements of support for human rights and expressed disagreement with the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses. But they refrained from directly condemning the CCP itself.
Senator ABETZ: … Can I ask each of the three witnesses to very briefly tell me whether they are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship? It’s not a difficult question.
Ms Jiang : As I have stated in a lot of my public statements, I condemn the grievous human rights abuses done by the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, but I also have said before that I don’t think it’s fair to force all Chinese Australians to take a position or political action when similar requests are not being made to other Australians.
CHAIR: Mr Chiu?
Mr Chiu : As I said previously, I support and believe in the universality of human rights. I don’t support the Communist Party but I don’t believe that it’s helpful to get into a political game of denouncements.
Senator ABETZ: So you can’t condemn it?
Mr Chiu : I think my statement was quite clear about how I don’t support the Communist Party and I don’t support what it does.
Senator ABETZ: There’s a difference between not supporting something and actively condemning a regime that engages in forced organ harvesting and having a million Uighers in concentration camps—the list goes on, and all we have is this limp statement that we don’t support it. Ms Chau?
Ms Chau : I think that all migrants should have a right to participate in Australian democracy and to be able to distinguish their ethnicity and race from dual political issues. As citizens, we should first and foremost be treated as every other citizen—and not every other Australian of any other ethnicity has been asked the same question.
Following the hearing, Osmond Chiu wrote an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald saying the inquiry showed debate around China-Australia relations had become “toxic” and that he did not want to respond to Abetz’s question because it was a “political game.”
“Presumably, the association trying to be made was that, by virtue of my ethnicity, there was some likelihood of divided allegiances,” Chiu said.
Chiu is a research fellow at the Per Capita think tank and is the former New South Wales (NSW) secretary of the Australian Fabians socialist organisation. His written submission to the inquiry began with “Australian politics is too white” and argued for parties to adopt a 20 percent target for culturally diverse candidates in winnable electorates.
Senator Abetz responded in a statement saying he made no apologies for the exchange and said, “(Chiu) was willing to criticise Australia on the basis of colour but not condemn China on the basis of values.”
“His concern was clearly about identity politics of colour/race and not of values, beliefs and character.”
“Criticism of a dictatorship that holds one million people of an ethnic minority in concentration camps and unapologetically commits a wide range of human rights abuses has nothing to do with race and everything to do with values,” he said.
“If Mr Chiu, a prominent Chinese-Australian from a “progressive” think tank and whose submission was made in consultation with China Matters, which “strives to advance sound China policy,” cannot bring himself to denounce a regime that continually and systematically commits human rights abuses, there is no hope for the Chinese diaspora in Australia to speak out,” he added.
During the CCP virus pandemic, Beijing leveraged Australia’s sensitivities around the issue of racism and alleged that Chinese people were experiencing a “significant increase” of racism. The CCP’s allegations came after Australia introduced new and more stringent foreign investment laws that could potentially block Chinese companies—as China faces internal economic turmoil.
The two other witnesses also released statements. Yun Jiang wrote on Twitter, likening her experience at the hearing to a “public witch-hunt.” She said it demonstrated why Chinese Australians struggled to engage in public policy or politics.
Wesa Chau, who is running for deputy lord mayor in Melbourne, said the incident confirmed her belief that every time a person of Chinese appearance puts their hand up for public office “their loyalty and allegiance to Australia is questioned.”
She further accused the senator of “race-baiting McCarthyism.” McCarthyism is a common refrain used by the CCP in reference to Washington’s increasingly stronger posture towards Beijing.
During the hearing, Chau challenged Abetz about whether he had been asked to be loyal to Australia because he was born in Germany.
Senator ABETZ: Oh, absolutely! Have you not read the terrible trolling that I receive? I am astounded that you would ask that question! And, sadly, if you’re of Italian origin you will be asked if you’re part of the Mafioso—
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: That’s right!
Senator ABETZ: If you’re Vietnamese you’ll be asked if you’re part of a triad. If you’re German, like myself, you must be a Fascist by birth, irrespective of what your public utterances might be. And so the list goes on. That is why, might I add, that in nearly every single interview that I do unequivocally condemning the Chinese Communist Party I stress that this is not a condemnation of the Chinese people—because I believe that they are just as freedom loving as every other human being on the planet—but that I am condemning the regime under which they suffer, just as much as not all Germans were Nazis, or all Russians communists, or all Italians part of the Mafioso or Vietnamese part of the triads.
Chau said it was unfair to ask Chinese Australians to pledge allegiance and declare loyalty to Australia. She said the inquiry was about diaspora issues and should focus on racism and civic education to help Chinese people understand how democracy works.
Australia and its strategic allies continue to ramp up pressure on Beijing over concerns of grey zone activities and geopolitical aggression (including the South China Sea and India-China border).
But while some in Australia decry being asked to condemn the CCP, at least 365 million Chinese nationals in mainland China, and across the world, have publicly signed statements to quit all affiliation with the CCP.
The Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP in New York City has registered over 365 million individuals’ withdrawal statements severing their ties in what is the largest grassroots movement in the world.
The withdrawals are in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s continued destruction of China’s traditional values and culture, it’s stoking of social and political upheavals, and its responsibility for 60 to 80 million unnatural deaths.