Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has found support amongst Australia’s Chinese community after he was criticised for asking three Chinese Australians to “unconditionally condemn” the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Abetz’s question was mischaracterised as a loyalty test in op-eds and commentary by the hearing witnesses—Osmond Chiu, Wesa Chau, and Yun Jiang—and this then became the focus of the media’s critical narrative.
“At no point did I question the loyalty of anyone. I did not even mention the word ‘loyalty.’ Yet Mr Chiu’s twisted and distorted narrative is blatantly false. Unfortunately, some now have parroted this false narrative without checking the record,” Abetz wrote in a statement.
The Hansard transcript confirms that Abetz’ did not ask for or question their loyalty.
The Senate committee hearing on issues facing the Chinese diaspora heard from three distinct groups of people, Abetz told The Epoch Times.
“One was too scared to give evidence publicly because of potential reprisals by the dictatorship. Another did so recognising the consequences for themselves here in Australia and relatives in China at the hands of the dictatorship. They expressed concern at the insidious influence and activities of the dictatorship amongst the Chinese diaspora,” Abetz explained.
“A third group which was strong on finding fault with Australia’s political system could not bring themselves to condemn—not even the CCP but the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship,” Abetz said.
This third group comprised Jiang, Chiu, and Chau. After presenting their opening statements, Abetz asked them whether they were “willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship.”
But they were not willing to condemn the CCP. Instead, they expressed disagreement with the CCP’s human rights abuses.
Chiu said he refused to condemn the CCP because the question was “demeaning and I would not legitimise his tactic with an answer.”
“A person who has dedicated their life to public service, who takes the effort to help build a more participatory society, should not have to profess their belief in the universality of human rights. Surely, at some stage, it should go without saying,” Chiu wrote.
But Abetz did not ask Chiu, Chau, or Jiang to profess their belief in human rights—he asked if they would condemn the CCP.
Dr. Feng Chongyi, associate professor in China Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, told The Epoch Times that it was a “shame for these three Australian citizens of Chinese heritage who participate in Australian politics” to refuse to condemn the “evil conducts of the CCP.”
“They are not qualified to represent Chinese communities in Australia,” Feng said. “It is ideologically and intellectually bankrupt to justify acquiescence of grave human rights violations by the CCP regime in the name multiculturalism or, even worse, anti-racism.
“Evil conducts and toxic ideologies are not part of Australian multiculturalism, which is based on universal values against communist tyranny,” he said.
In an op-ed for Inside Story, Jiang wrote: “Let’s be clear, the issue is not about whether or not the Chinese Communist Party should be condemned. In a democracy, we are all free to make up our minds and express our opinions. No one should be forced to condemn anyone or any political organisation simply to be accepted,” she wrote.
But Abetz said: “The reluctance to condemn the evil dictatorship has a chilling effect on the diaspora which seeks support for protection. It must be disheartening for the oppressed and incarcerated to be told that condemnation of the regime is lazily avoided by labelling freedom advocates as ‘racist.'”
Chinese Internet Users Condemn the CCP
Chinese netizens have expressed similar sentiments to Feng’s online. A thread of replies written in Chinese to an ABC article on Twitter reveals a large number of similar views in support of Abetz’ stance.
Jimmy Cheng from the Australian Values Alliance said Abetz, as an elected representative, had asked a question on behalf of people like him and said it was “misleading” to suggest the question was a loyalty test.
“If people want to work in public office or speak publicly, Australian people are entitled to know what their views [are] on certain things like human rights violations,” Cheng told The Epoch Times.
“They (the witnesses) use their Chinese background when they wanted to represent Chinese, but when they have been asked that question related to CCP which is most of our Chinese Australian concerns they wanted to distance themselves by saying they are Australians,” Cheng said.
Cheng said that given the witnesses spoke about the risk of retaliation from the CCP “how can we know that when they get a position in public office or when they write a report to the Australian government (for example Yun Jiang), they would not work for the communist tyranny’s interests?”
Meanwhile, one Twitter user—May—wrote that the CCP is the “enemy of the free world” and that all people with a conscience “should condemn the Communist Party.”
“The evils that the [Chinese] Communist Party has done are countless all over the world,” May wrote.
May also criticised the three witnesses. “They should be ashamed of their actions! If you don’t want to offend the Communist Party, then don’t participate in politics!”
“Playing race cards at every turn is disgusting,” she added.
In a speech, Labor MP Andrew Giles repeated the “loyalty” narrative, saying: “Last week three Chinese Australians, all born in this country, had their loyalty to Australia questioned by a Government Senator.”
“We cannot tolerate the loyalty or value of some Australians being questioned by reason of their ethnicity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Twitter user Zoe Zhang wrote: “Ask me a thousand times, and I will say yes. I am not disgusted with this question. Whenever you ask me, I will answer firmly: Yes, I unconditionally condemn the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party, unless they abolish the dictatorship and move towards democracy, freedom and the rule of law.”
Another Chinese Twitter user going by the handle Season617 replied to Zhang, writing: “What’s more, this question has nothing to do with loyalty, but with the universal value of justice.”