World / Asia-Pacific

Fears in Chinese students as violence spreads in Sydney

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-04-26 10:15

SYDNEY - The Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA) has joined a chorus of condemnation over the assault of two Chinese nationals on a Sydney train earlier this week that has raised questions over the safety of Chinese students living in Sydney.

Police arrested two men in Sydney's southern suburb of Rockdale along with four juveniles aged between 14 and 17 after a gruesome assault that has left the community shaken and undermined Sydney's image as a haven for international students.

The men were formally refused bail on Tuesday and police are unable to comment further on the matter until it appears before court in June.

NSW State Premier Barry O'Farrell is writing a letter to the Chinese Consulate General but was not immediately available for comment.

News of the assault, which included racial abuse and elements of extreme intimidation and violence has spread across Chinese language micro-blogging services and mainstream media. A 29-year-old man, suffered a fractured cheekbone and nose during the robbery as well as burns from a lit cigarette.

ACYA's People to People Exchange Vice-President Jeffrey Sheehy told Xinhua that the Association deplores the attack.

"We would like these students, and Chinese students everywhere, to understand that this attack, including the racist assault, stands in stark contrast to the values of the vast majority of Australians. That is, an abhorrence towards assaults on vulnerable persons, towards failing to help those in need and towards racism in any form." He told Xinhua.

"This event is not only tragic for those involved, but also damaging to Australia's reputation in China." Sheehy added.

Two other teens are expected before court at later dates.

Police told Xinhua the attack was not racially motivated and they have initiated an investigation which links the attack that left two Chinese students with facial fractures and injuries consistent with cigarette burns with two other robberies that occurred in Sydney's CBD on Sunday night.

What is also disturbing police is that the attackers were all teenagers and included females. The men refused bail are Luke Clayton, 19, and Christopher Jenkins also 19 who are from the industrial Port of Port Kembla one and-a-half hours south of Sydney.

A girl, 17, of Unanderra and a boy, 14, of Port Kembla were expected to appear at a Children's Court on Tuesday, due to their status as juveniles they remain un-named. There are currently 230, 000 international students enrolled in NSW, with the greatest majority from China and India, studying in Sydney.

Last week, O'Farrell announced visa changes that will expedite student numbers and expand the already lucrative state industry.

"International education is a 6 billion dollars industry for NSW  our second largest in terms of exports," O'Farrell said in a statement last week.

Although NSW police have stressed the attack was not racially motivated, doubts exist within the Chinese community over the ability of police to protect the large number of younger students and Chinese nationals.

Rockdale and Hurstville in the city's south is home to a large Chinese community.

A Chinese man from Kogarah who asked not to be named told Xinhua that the area was experiencing a serious crime wave and that public transport was no longer safe.

"It's not a race thing, I don't think. But these trains are dangerous. There are not enough police. People are scared." He said.

Sheehy told Xinhua that nevertheless, the incident was extremely serious and that the concerns of the Chinese student community should be addressed 'at the highest levels of both state and federal government.'

"Given the importance of China to Australia's future, governments should focus on building cultural understanding between Australians and Chinese, and eliminating racism in schools and the broader community." He said.

"The future of Australia-China relations lies in the positive interaction between Australian and Chinese youth, not in callous acts of violence on late-night trains."

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