Joseph McCarthy smiled in his grave

McCarthyism was re-incarnated when Senator Eric Abetz asked three young Chinese Australians to “unequivocally condemn” the Chinese Communist Party. Congratulations to Chiu, Jiang and Chau for having the courage to defend themselves when bullied.

 Such a controversial question has attracted considerable adverse media attention and can only bring detriment to the name and reputation of Australia overseas.

The Chinese Community Council of Australia and the National Chinese Australian Leaders Group wish to express their deepest concern the way Senator Eric Abetz questions our young son Osmond Chiu, and daughters Jun Jiang and Wesa Chau, of the Chinese Australian community who appeared as witnesses before the prestigious Senate committee inquiry into issues facing diaspora communities in Australia.

It should have been a proud moment and honour in their lives, to be called before a Senate inquiry to give further evidence about the wide Australian diaspora.  It was an opportunity to participate in Australian public life in our vibrant democracy.

Alas, this proud moment turned into a nightmare when the question put forward by Senator Abetz, was perceived by them as way out of line and the community as “bullying tactics” in McCarthyist style inquisition. (see news reports below)

ABC News: 15 Oct 2020  – Chinese Australians says questions from Senator Eric Abetz about their loyalties are not asked of other communities.

 Reporter Toby Mann quoted Jun Jiang tweet:  “This is what I think about the Senate Committee public hearing yesterday, where I, along with two other Chinese-Australian witnesses, was interrogated about our views of China as some sort of loyalty test”.

The Guardian 15 Oct 2020 ‘ Eric Abetz refuses to apologise for demanding chine Australians denounce Communist party.  Reporter Naveen Razik wrote “The Senator’s line of questioning received fierce criticism, with the nation’s Race Discrimination Commissioner saying ‘no Australian should be required to prove their loyalty’.

SBS News 15 Oct 2020 –‘Race-baiting McCarthyism’: Eric Abetz slammed for asking Chinese Australians to denounce Communist Party during diaspora inquiry

Naveen Razik wrote “The veteran Liberal senator has been accused of subjecting three Senate inquiry witnesses to ‘race-baiting McCarthyism”.  Senator Penny Wong was quoted saying “Australia was a democracy where every citizen was equal, and senators must not “tolerate the loyalty or value of some Australians being questioned because of their ethnic origins”.

South China Morning Post 15 Oct 2020 – Senator insists Chinese Australians condemn CCP at inquiry on diaspora issues, sparking backlash.  Reporter Su Lin Tan wrote:  “Senator Eric Abetz’s demands at the inquiry about diversity in Australia sparked accusations he was waging a ‘McCarthyist campaign’ against Chinese-Australians”  and “Former PM Kevin Rudd called the attack ‘repugnant’ and said the government should refrain from using race-based panic in its defence of national interests

Of the three victims of racial bullying, two have expressed their hurt in public:

Osmund Chiu rebutted in the Age opinion piece 14 Oct 2020 I was born in Australia why do I need to renounce the Chinese Communist Party?” 

Jun Jiang rebutted in John Menadue P&I Why are the loyalties of Chinese- Australians questioned constantly in the public arena?

I was asked by Senator Eric Abetz to “unequivocally condemn” the Chinese Communist Party. Presumably, the association trying to be made was that, by virtue of my ethnicity, there was some likelihood of divided allegiances.

From the above reports, McCarthyism has indeed re-incarnated in Australia and this type of “inquisition” is a nightmare for all immigrants who migrated from a country that is not an ally of Australia.

Mr Chiu was not even born when the frightening American experience occurred, but showed sound knowledge when he said “sometimes wondered how people felt when there were dragged in front of the House Committee of Un-American Activities with Congressmen demanding that they prove their loyalty.  Never did I imagine I would be placed”.

The Senator’s controversial question also received wide backlash from the Multicultural communities in Australia and had attracted criticism from Senator Penny Wong, former PM Kevin Rudd and Mr Chin Tan, the current Human Rights Commissioner and Immigration Shadow Minister Andrew Giles.

Senator Abetz re-kindling the frightening spectre of oppressive McCarthyism in Australia has earned adverse publicity for Australia.

Senator Abetz not only refused to apologise but also attempted to whitewash his question as “value based”.  Blind freddy can see that the young Chinese Australians were bullied; and other coming behind would not be too keen to participate in future inquiries.

Many governments in the West or their political parties have done wrong and we do not condemn them on the basis of partisan geopolitics. Equally, China is not perfect either but there are good things they do for their people. Senator Abetz’s question reflects bigoted partisan geopolitics.  As much as I respect his views, he has no right to thrust it upon others.

Commissioner Tan said “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”.

The PM has said that “There is only one pledge that any pledge that any Australian should take and that is the pledge they taken when they become a citizen. (JYLo – private communication)

In addition, Senator Abetz only asked all these three Chinese Australians witnesses the loaded question whilst others community representatives were not asked similar questions. Why just pick on people of Chinese origin?

This line of questioning was completely irrelevant to the inquiry. Mr Chiu was born in Australia and his family have lived here for half a century. Demanding that an Australian refute allegiances to a foreign government simply based on his ethnic background is McCarthyism style abuse by Eric Abetz of his role as a Senator in the Australian Government.

Senator Abetz is clearly lacking in understanding the asset that multiculturalism has been to Australia’s historical development and is to our economy today. His action is not conducive to social cohesion, and publicly contradict public policy of the by Minister Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration.

We urge the Morrison Government to denounce Senator Abetz’s behaviour and commit to building and maintaining a cohesive and harmonious multicultural society in Australia.

Finally, we congratulate Osmund Chiu, Wesa Chau and Jun Jiang for their brave public stand in the matter.  On this issue, the Chinese Australian community and their national leaders stand by you.

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Dr Anthony Pun OAM, is the National President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia (CCCA);

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