The attack, which was said to have taken place at a local bus exchange, left one student with severe injuries requiring hospital treatment and two others with minor bruising and lacerations.
“I was deeply concerned about the assault of Chinese international secondary school students at the Woden bus interchange,” Australian Capital Territory deputy chief minister Yvette Berry said in a statement.
“The ACT Government values the contribution that all international visitors make to our city, including our friends from China.”
In response to the incident and other similar incidences, police have increased patrols around bus stations in the nation’s capital and held meetings with Chinese residents to discuss “students’ personal safety, Australian policing and… the importance of contacting police if they felt they were in danger or witnessed antisocial or criminal behaviour.”
The wider Canberran community has similarly moved to reassure international students they are still safe.
“The community are trying very hard to dispel some misleading reporting mostly due to misunderstanding and or misinterpretation [or] confusion and the reactions to the perceived lack of timely respond (sic),” ACT Chinese Australian Association said in a Facebook post.
“In a vacuum of information, people think you don’t care”
“The recent incidents have caused undue distress to the Chinese community and tarnished the reputation of Canberra as a safe and student friendly city.”
Despite the response, however, there are still many concerned by the potential racial implications of the attack, with a Change.org petition claiming international students were “frequently provoked, intimidated, surrounded and even assaulted by the local young bullies around… Woden” already receiving almost 3,900 signatures.
China’s Global Times also picked up on the attack, calling it a potential “turning point, reshaping Chinese people’s foundation for understanding Australian society” if significant steps were not taken to address this and other incidences, as well as ongoing negative comments against the country.
Mary Ann Seow, president of student services association ISANA, said Australia had learned from similar concerns in 2006 and 2009 after Indian students were targeted in a series of attacks in Adelaide and Melbourne, respectively, and the local community must continue to push a welcoming message to students and parents.
“In a vacuum of information, people think you don’t care,” she told The PIE News.
“ISANA is reassured that everything that needs to be done to support the students, their families as well as homestay families is being carried out.”
Two teenagers, who were not themselves Chinese international students, were arrested in connection with the event.