- More Chinese Australians are contemplating leaving Australia, according to a recent anti-racism survey
- Most survey respondents said they are considering returning to their country of origin or New Zealand where relations with China weren’t as ‘tense’
- Prominent Chinese Australian businessman Richard Yuan says it’s hard to compensate for the trade losses from China with growth from countries outside the largest export destination
Prominent Sydney businessman Richard Yuan says this year will almost certainly be his last in Australia if Scott Morrison isn't ousted as prime minister.
The native from mainland China became an Australian citizen in 2001 at a time when it made his peers back at home envious.
But he says the shine has been wearing off over the past three to five years, culminating in a personal incident in November last year where he was allegedly racially attacked at a major shopping centre in Sydney.
Mr Yuan says a young man pointed at his nose and allegedly yelled: “You f***ing go back to your own country”.
Rather than ignoring the alleged abuse, Mr Yuan says he decided to confront him.
In a clip Mr Yuan took and shared on his WeChat, he is heard yelling back: “You stupid racist. You want to talk? You want to fight?”
In the moments that ensued, which were filmed off-camera, Mr Yuan claims he dodged punches from the alleged perpetrator before he fought back and managed to hit his alleged attacker in the face in "self-defence".
Mr Yuan says mainland Chinese used to envy their compatriots who live in Australia. Source: Supplied
“I just tried to take a stand. You do not always need to shy away from all this, all this nonsense,” he said.
“Even if it's time to have to face the music, you've got to do it, so I did.”
Factors impacting Mr Yuan’s decision to leave Australia
The long-time Liberal voter says this was the first time he had experienced a racial attack in Australia, an incident that he says has prompted him to think about his sense of belonging and purpose in Australia.
With the outcome of a federal election just days away, Mr Yuan has vowed to “pack up and go” if Scott Morrison is re-elected as prime minister.
The prime minister told on Monday that he thought the people to people relations between Australia and China were "very strong" and tensions were only with the Chinese government.
He said he felt there was "great desire and interest" from Chinese people to have a holiday, study and do business in Australia.
"We can't have a situation where any other government from any other country, including the Chinese government, would seek to coerce Australia. And there has been many examples of that," he said.
But Chinese Australians such as Mr Yuan remain unconvinced.
"I've never changed [my vote] but this time, I would change for someone [new],” he said.
Chinese Australian represent about five per cent of the voting population, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Source: AAP
Mr Yuan joins a chorus of other Chinese Australians who are contemplating leaving Australia due to what they claim is a rise in racist attacks against the Chinese diaspora, and Asians who may appear Chinese.
A recent of 457 Chinese community members living in Australia, led by Wesa Chau as the co-founder of the Resilience Against Racism program, found that prior to 2019, almost half of the respondents indicated that they had never planned on leaving Australia.
Ms Chau, an Australian Labor Party (AFP) party member, says when people leave because they don’t feel welcome, Australia is the loser, both economically and culturally.
“Like any migrant cohort, they are not homogenous,” she told SBS Chinese.
“Yes, I know some people who have left due to racism, but there are also those looking for more opportunities internationally.
“Racism is an issue across society and it’s important the distinction is made between the Chinese government and the people when speaking about international relations.”
Anti-Racism Survey Report 2022 findings. Source: Wesa Chau
After 2019, there was an eight-fold increase in the number of people “already planning” to leave Australia.
“If I go, a lot of people are going to follow, trust me,” Mr Yuan said.
Trade diversification proving tricky
Mr Yuan is marking the 22nd year of running his investment and migration visa company, ABC World, this year.
The businessman has made a living selling expensive travel packages and setting up migration pathways for affluent Chinese migrants, many who have $5 million to invest in exchange for permanent residency.
He says politicians who are contributing to the anti-Chinese sentiment during the pandemic and in the lead-up to the federal election, are forgetting who their number one customer is.
Richard Yuan's company ABC World has been helping migrants with permanent residency via investment in Australia. Source: AAP
“We [China] are the only country that can afford the bill,” said Mr Yuan.
How can we hate and how can we punch our number one customer?
Both major parties currently back trade diversification policies that aim to create an Australian economy that is less dependent on China.
But the nation’s wine export industry, for example, has not been able to the losses from China with growth from market diversification outside of its former largest export destination, according to export data released by the country’s wine authority Wine Australia.
Mr Yuan says he’s tried to follow the government’s instructions to diversify by drawing in clients from places other than mainland China but has been “unsuccessful until now”.
China’s anti-dumping tariffs have had significant impacts on the Australian bottled wine market since November 2020. Source: EPA
“I know the market well. You just can't shout and say oh, you diversify,” Mr Yuan said.
“Diversification is not a slogan.”
Where to migrate to next?
Of the racism survey respondents who said they were considering leaving Australia, over half indicated they would return to mainland China.
The next most popular destination was New Zealand.
“New Zealand doesn’t have as big of a conflict with China,” said Melbourne-based Chinese Australian Winny Li.
A Anti-Racism Survey Report 2022 finding. Source: Wesa Chau
Ms Li migrated to Australia in 2007 and says she’s only just begun to toy with the idea of migrating to New Zealand due to the rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia.
“I’ve never personally been racially attacked but I’ve seen reports of it. It’s true, my husband and I have been discussing a move to New Zealand,” she told SBS Chinese.
Ms Li, who runs a small engineering consultancy firm with her husband, says she feels there’s no chance of repairing Australia’s relations with China under a Morrison government.
However, she says she could see the two countries’ relationship improve under an ALP government.
Melbourne-based Winny Li says she's recently had thoughts about migrating to New Zealand due to the rise in racial attacks against Chinese Australians. Source: Supplied
“There is some hope with Labor for repair but under Morrison, it’s impossible. He’s been too extreme,” she said.
The ALP were contacted by SBS Chinese on Monday, but did not respond before deadline.
Racial attack leaves mainland Chinese wanting to return home
The anti-China rhetoric has been widely felt across the Chinese community living in Australia.
Racial attack victim Jessica says she was listening to music on her headphones as she got off a train at Sydney’s Burwood Station in April last year when she heard someone yelling at her from behind.
She tells SBS Chinese that the man started hurling racial abuse at her when she turned around to face him.
“Every sentence began with an f-word,” she said.
Jessica says not one bystander intervened when the man started spitting on her after she yelled back and threatened to call the police.
Jessica took a photo of her alleged attacker shortly after he racially abused and hit her in front of Burwood Station in Sydney in April last year. Source: Supplied
She claims he then hit her and broke her glasses.
The young mother says she believes that she is a victim of Australia’s fraught relations with China, which she believes has changed some people’s attitudes towards the Chinese community.
Jessica says that had it not been for her child who attends school in Australia, she would have already returned to her homeland.
My life was fine in China. My salary was on a par with what I get here.
Prior to 2019, the Anti-Racism Survey Report found two-thirds of the respondents expressed few concerns about migrating to Australia.
Now, four out of 10 people have said they had a lot of concern about moving down under to live, invest or study.
A finding from the Anti-Racism Survey Report 2022. Source: Wesa Chau
Despite some instances of racial attacks, Ms Chau says she still thinks Australia is a great country because of its diversity and people’s willingness to welcome new migrants.
“There are good people in Australia who are willing to call out racism when they see it,” she said.
Jessica says, like many Chinese people living in Australia, she paints a rosy picture of her current life to her parents abroad to prevent them from worrying.
To this day, they remain unaware of their daughter’s encounter with a racial attacker.
“If anyone had told me about the possibility of encountering racists attacks [in Australia], do you think I would have come?” she said.
Wesa Chau is the ALP candidate for the state electorate of Prahran.