China's embassy in Canberra has taken the rare step of issuing a public safety warning for Chinese students living in Australia due to "a rising number of insulting incidents".
- 170,000 Chinese students are studying in Australia
- Chinese media have widely reported two incidents of violence against Chinese students
- Beijing is furious with Australian media reports on Communist Party interference.
A notification posted on the embassy website on Sunday reminded Chinese students to increase their safety awareness and listed the phone numbers of consulates around the country.
The statement said recently there has been an increase in "insulting incidents" and assaults against Chinese students in different parts of the country, and urged students to immediately report any safety problems to the Chinese embassy.
Student safety has been a growing concern among the 170,000 Chinese students in schools, universities, private colleges and vocational training in Australia.
Chinese government figures show 98,000 of them are tertiary students, accounting for a third of Australia's total international university student market.
Many Mandarin-language media widely reported the case of two Chinese high school students who were badly beaten in Canberra's Woden bus interchange in October.
The attack prompted China's embassy to publicly urge the Australian government to take measures to ensure the safety of Chinese students in Australia.
The case also received widespread media attention in China and public concern from Foreign Ministry officials in Beijing.
Some elements of the Chinese language media also interpreted an incident in August at Canberra's Australian National University as targeting Chinese students.
Four Chinese nationals were injured when an Australian student allegedly began attacking classmates and a tutor with a baseball bat in a statistics tutorial.
Chinese authorities raised further concerns in July about multiple flyers posted at two universities in Melbourne that used clumsily translated mandarin to warn Chinese they were banned from entering buildings and could be deported.
The public safety warning comes amidst a period of worsening ties between Australia and China over public discussion of Chinese Communist Party interference in Australia.
Foreign Ministry officials this month summoned Australia's ambassador to Beijing Jan Adams to formally complain about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull citing China in parliament ahead of the introduction of new counter-espionage laws.
Beijing is also furious with Australian media reports this year that have driven the public discussion of Communist Party interference.
The reports detailed political donations from embassy-linked Chinese businessmen and Beijing's tightening grip of Australia's Chinese-language media.
This month the Communist Party's official mouthpiece People's Daily described the rhetoric in Australia as "xenophobic" — in what appeared to be an attempt to associate criticism of the Party as being critical of all Chinese in Australia.
In the wake of the latest safety warnings, the jingoistic tabloid Global Times has also brought Australia into a growing domestic campaign to emphasise Beijing's ability to protect Chinese nationals no matter where they are in the world.
"Chinese students need to keep in mind that Australia is not China, and they should not overestimate the public security of other countries", Sun Yat-sen University research fellow Yu Lei told the Global Times.
"In China, many teenagers love to eat, drink and have fun outside after midnight and go home at 3am or later, but in Australia, the common knowledge is that you shouldn't stay out too late", Yu Lei reportedly said.