Exclusive interview with Dr. He-Shen Huixia, the first Chinese born member of parliament, about racial discrimination in Australia

 

Women at Work : Community advocates

Written By: Xiao 11 wolves

In the Australian autumn season, coronavirus has been rampant along with rising racial discrimination against Chinese Australians. In response, Chinese-Australians have staged an online protest in line with the government’s lockdown measures. The Sydney’s Post’s own opinion editor, Xiao 11 wolves, decided to sit down with the first Chinese born member of parliament in Australia, Dr He-Shen Huixia to conduct an interview. We conducted a telephone interview in accord with Australia’s epidemic control measures.

Xiao 11 wolves will be referred to as Xiao throughout the interview

Xiao: Hello Dr. He! First of all I would like to say hello to you on behalf of the Sydney Post’s readers, our electronic newspaper is edited by Chinese-Australians and many people in the community pay attention to our commentary. This interview will mainly be about the topic of racial discrimination.

Dr. He-Shen Huixia JP will be referred to as Dr. He throughout the interview

 

Dr. He: “Hello Xiao”

Xiao: According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, there have been as many as 170 complaints of racial discrimination in recent months. It’s not surprising if there were say, one or two a week, but an increase of 100 in such a short time is quite unprecedented. What is your opinion about the recent rise in racial discrimination?

Dr. He: “Some people recently replaced the stars in the Chinese flag with virus patterns, many people thought it was a joke, including myself. But after US President Trump used the word “Chinese virus” publicly, a wave of racial discrimination started. Personally, I don’t like President Trump too much, but as a President, I don’t have much to say.”

Xiao: What’s the difference between racial discrimination against Chinese-Australians now and in the past?

Dr. He: “In the past, racial discrimination was mostly targeted against Chinese people who couldn’t speak English and some of us who had some bad habits such as spitting and talking loudly and so on. But now racial discrimination is quite different.”

Xiao: Did you quit the Liberal Party due to racial discrimination?

Dr. He: “It was probably around 1996 or 1997 when Pauline Hanson made a discriminatory speech against Asian-Australians. At that time, I was the only Asian member of parliament. I was extremely dissatisfied with it and the only person who objected to it. At the time, the Prime Minister John Howard didn’t even raise an eyebrow and refused to speak for me as a Liberal Party member. So I didn’t think the Liberal Party’s ideals were for me, so I quit.”

Xiao: Your situation reminds of Gladys Liu, the first Chinese born member in the Federal House of Representatives, what is your opinion on what she has done?

Dr. He: “I receive her emails regularly, but I haven’t seen too much regarding her work however from what I know, she doesn’t seem to use her Chinese identity and language to make a difference. Chinese-Australians chose her in hopes she would speak for them.”

Xiao: Yes, I don’t think she has done enough, her work rarely addresses Chinese-Australians, as if she is far away from them. Back to the matter of recent racial discrimination. I think it maybe a revival and continuation of the “Yellow Peril” theory, what do you think of this?

Dr. He: “I don’t think its a continuation, or it might be just a small part of it. The former “Yellow Peril” theory came from when China was closed in those days. That impression came from the time of the gold rush. They believed Chinese people were ignorant and backward and should not come to Australia. When China opened up, people here began to realise that this wasn’t the case anymore.”

Xiao: In the current political climate, do you think there will be any anti-China policies implemented?

Dr. He: “Some members of the Liberal Party have put forward an idea to make China compensate Australia for the virus, which is just a personal view and does not represent the policies of the Liberal Party and the government. But the Prime Minister should be neutral, discard such commentary, and should speak out about it.”

Xiao: What role has the media played in this wave of racial discrimination?

Dr. He: “It’s the biggest perpetrator, It’s played a terrible role in boosting the momentum, including newspapers and radio stations. For example, in 2GB’s morning program, the host will often make racist comments and listeners will call in, and often quarrel. When I listen to their racist comments, I get too angry and turn off the radio. I don’t want to listen it, the program is quite popular in rural areas.”

Xiao: What else would you like to add?

Dr He: “There is an issue with multiculturalism, I have found in the last decade that this word has been rarely mentioned. It may have something to do with racism.”

Xiao: Yes, multiculturalism affirms the social status of ethnic minorities, but some people don’t want to give them this status, so they don’t mention it. I plan to discuss this topic with you later on. By the way, I can tell you that The Sydney Post is the first dual language newspaper in the Chinese-Australian media.

Dr. He: “That’s great. Congratulations”

Xiao: Dr. He, thankyou for your interview. I will follow up with you in the future about current affairs. Thankyou

 

April 20 2020 – THE SYDNEY POST

Translated By: Xiao Ming

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