Canberra: China’s government joined India on Thursday in demanding Australia provide better protection for foreign students after a series of violent assaults on Indian students that victims have called racist.
“There are over 130,000 Chinese students in Australia. They have on the whole had good study and living environment in Australia, but attacks on Chinese students also occurred in recent years,” China’s Canberra embassy said in a statement.
“It is hoped that the Australian government will provide better protection to international students from China and other countries,” the statement said.
Australia’s government said earlier this week that racism was not behind violent attacks, including the latest slashing with a box-cutter knife of a man in Melbourne by a group of five youths.
Audio | Indian youngsters sound out on racial attacks in Australia
The attack redoubled fears that violent beatings and robberies of Indian students could seriously damage Australia’s third-biggest export earner, the A$15 billion ($12.38 billion) market for overseas students.
To avert a rift with New Delhi -- already bristling over rebuffed efforts to buy Australian uranium -- senior ministers including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have lined up to reassure Indian counterparts they are taking the attacks seriously.
A far-right Australian website run by white supremacists on Thursday urged racial holy war, or “rahowa”, against Indian students, but police said they did not believe the site was behind recent attacks.
“There is an element of (racism), but the purpose is to steal property from people,” Victorian police commander Trevor Carter told journalists in Melbourne.
Police said Indian students were seen as passive by opportunistic thieves and often carried large amounts of cash, a common practice back home, making them a target.
Former Australian Medical Association president and prominent ethnic Indian doctor Mukesh Haikerwal, who was himself bashed with a baseball bat 2008 during a 2008 robbery, said he also doubted racism was behind recent student assaults.
“There are pockets of racism in every part of the world. I don’t believe Australia is any more racist than other places,” Haikerwal said.
State leaders, wary that international concern could prompt a foreign student exodus, plan to meet with Indian community leaders and police, while Australian police were to travel to India at the weekend to talk to prospective students.
Indian students representatives met with Victorian state premier John Brumby and police on Thursday and discussed strategies to end attacks including more police in “International Student High Risk Zones” including train and bus stations.