China is warning students to reconsider plans to study in Australia due to racist attacks. It is the latest economic threat by Beijing following Scott Morrison’s push for a coronavirus inquiry.

China’s Education Ministry has not issued similar advice for any other country since the coronavirus outbreak. It was the first advisory it has published this year.
The Group of Eight (G8) universities, which represents 63 per cent of all Chinese students, said it was disappointed with the statement and was seeking advice from the Chinese Embassy about suggestions students may have been subject to racial attacks.
“These simply would not be tolerated for any of our students. Our universities remain safe spaces for all of our students,” G8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said.
“The G8 is absolutely committed to our Chinese students and to maintaining a positive and collaborative relationship with China, but, statements such as this do make things more difficult at an already difficult time.
“Our duty of care extends to all of our students domestic and international and never more so at this time whilst we are in the middle of a global pandemic.”
The chief executive of International Education Association of Australia Phil Honeywood said through word of mouth Chinese families were well aware Australia is a safe and welcoming study destination for their children.
“These bilateral issues have arisen with other countries in the past and I’m confident that common sense will prevail and these issues will be resolved at ministerial level,” he said.
There are currently about 40,000 students with a valid visa to study in Australia who remain in China.
While the move would not prohibit Chinese students from going to Australia once coronavirus-related travel bans are lifted, it could influence their parents when making a decision about where to send their children to study.
There were 164,716 Chinese students enrolled in Australian higher education last year.
The advice followed a warning in April by the Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, who told The Australian Financial Review that Chinese consumers and students could boycott Australia in retaliation for Canberra pressuring Beijing over the origins of the coronavirus.
China this week stepped up accusations that Australia was no longer safe for its citizens, citing media reports about an increase in attacks and discrimination by people of Asian heritage since the coronavirus outbreak.
“Many Chinese in Australia were insulted or even attacked. Some Chinese and Asian families’ properties were vandalised. Chinese and Asians encountered unjust treatment at workplace,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Monday.
She cited Australian media reports, including those from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which is blocked from the Chinese internet, about discrimination.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said complaints from “Asians” accounted for 25 per cent of the hundreds filed about racial discrimination in Australia in the first quarter of this year.
“The Chinese government has been responsible in reminding Chinese citizens to make proper travel plans and protect themselves from harm. We also advise the Australian side to pay attention to the problems and take concrete measures to protect the security, rights and interests of Chinese nationals in Australia,” she said.
The Morrison government has denied China’s comments which it said had no basis.
China last month imposed crippling tariffs on Australian barley following an 18-month anti-dumping investigation. It also banned beef from four Australian abattoirs due to labelling issues.
Some power plants in China have been told to stop importing Australian coal, according to traders and analysts.
While Beijing denies it uses economic coercion to punish trading partners over political statements, China watchers believe there is no doubt Beijing wants to punish Canberra for seeking to rally support for a coronavirus inquiry.
In April, Beijing’s ambassador has warned the Morrison government that its pursuit of an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia, as well as sales of popular agricultural exports like beef and wine.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review, Cheng Jingye denounced Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s push for an inquiry as “dangerous”.