The Chinese-Australian man who was racially abused by a school-aged boy in a now viral video has said he does not want to visit hate on the group of children involved but rather wants to use the incident to educate the community about racism.
A video taken by staff at Folks Gallery in Dickson on Friday shows a boy racially abuse staff before spitting on the cafe’s outdoor table.
The clearly identifiable teenage boy is shown filming cafe staff, making racist references to their appearance and referring repeatedly to “viruses” before spitting deliberately on an outside table and telling staff “clean that up”. Two girls standing on the footpath continue mocking staff members while the boy makes an obscene gesture. Region Media has chosen not to show the video.
The cafe’s owner, Vincent Chen, said he had asked a group aged in their early teens to stop smoking outside his store and told them to leave when they started racially abusing him.
The group allegedly responded with a statement along the lines of “We won’t leave, you leave Australia”, and made comments involving COVID-19, Mr Chen said.
“At first I was of course angry, if someone talked to you like that you would be angry. I was shocked,” he said.
“I have lived in Australia and Canberra for so many years and I did not expect this to happen because people are really, really nice to me.
“We know we are aliens, we are coming from other countries, people here might think we will rob their jobs, I don’t know. We try our best to contribute to society, we have our business here, we choose to live here because we love the country.”
The boy in the video has since apologised to Mr Chen.
Racism against Asian-Australians increased during the pandemic: one ANU study from late last year found that more than four in five had experienced instances of discrimination between January and October 2020.
Mr Chen said the incident was not isolated. He said that other businesses in Dickson and his friends in Melbourne had reported similar examples of racist abuse, but he did not want to use the video going viral on social media as an excuse to spread hate.
“It is not just his fault, it is what people are taught or brought up with,” he said.
“It is what information they have been given. They have never been to China, maybe they have never had a friend who is Chinese, they did not know how nice we are. [Instead,] they learn from the mass media and social media.
“I hope they understand how much we contribute to society.”
The video also circulated around the Chinese social media site WeChat, which was where it came to the attention of Chin Wong, the President of the ACT Chinese Australian Association.
Ms Wong said countless incidents are ignored and passed off as “stupid comments” but that the seriousness of the video meant that it could not be ignored by the community.
“This incident is the one we thought, hang on, this is really bad, we cannot be silent anymore, we cannot allow this to continue,” she said.
Ms Wong also criticised the ACT Government for not doing more to combat racism in the community but ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the government would use this incident as a chance to educate the community.
“This behaviour is not acceptable. While we can’t change what has been done and said, this incident presents an opportunity to educate these young people and to reinforce to the community that this is not acceptable behaviour,” she said.
“It is important that we make sure the people who have been subject to this abuse feel welcome and supported.
“We also need to make sure these young people, their families and their school communities are supported as well.”
The Education Directorate said that ACT Policing is working with all parties involved after the name of the 14-year-old was posted online and schools in the ACT have received hundreds of angry emails from the millions of people who have now viewed the video online.
If you experience violence, abuse or other criminal behaviour, you can report it to the ACT Human Rights Commission on 6205 2222.
If you need support, you can call Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line on 13 11 14.