Beijing: The ferocity of the same-sex marriage debate among Chinese Australians could be “good” training for democracy, but risks alienating young people, a Chinese newspaper has reported.
Under the headline “Divided down under”, the Global Times newspaper reports that conservative, and mostly Christian, elderly Chinese have been politically activated in a way previously not seen in Australia.
WeChat, the popular Chinese social media platform, had become “a virtual battlefield” in Australia between the two sides of the same-sex marriage debate.
University of Queensland PhD student Liu Tingting, who researches Chinese dating apps and Chinese sexual culture, says the social media platform is being flooded with alarmist and offensive posts opposing same-sex marriage.
“Emergency! …Vote against legalising same-sex marriage because it’s a death spell that will leave you sonless, and the origin that creates and spreads AIDS,” reads one message.
Global Times interviewed one woman who posts 20 times a day on WeChat. She urges people to vote no, and also “patrols other WeChat groups” to preach to Chinese Australians.
Ms Liu is quoted saying young Chinese living in Australia have been “unusually quiet in the face of such vehement propaganda”.
She is concerned they are too afraid to openly defy their parents, because many still live at home.
Ms Liu, 29, who has been studying in Australia for three years but is originally from Guangzhou, told Fairfax Media she had received a big response from young people in China after writing about the Australian same-sex marriage debate, and her concern that most propaganda was pushing a “no” vote, in an essay online.
She has stopped reading WeChat because of the propaganda, but said she was “really amazed” at how Chinese in Australia were talking in groups about sexuality amid the debate.
“They can talk about it and they can vote,” she said.
Pansy Lai, the Sydney doctor and founder of Australian Chinese for Families Association, who appears in a video advertisement for the Coalition for Marriage, told Global Times she “does not discriminate against anyone”.
Ms Lai told the newspaper she was “concerned that legalising same-sex marriage will have an impact on the education system and freedom of speech in our country”.
Jack Zhang, a Chinese man working in Sydney, said when he contacted the most active WeChat opponents of same-sex marriage, he found they were radical Christians.
The Chinese WeChat activists are calling for boycotts of companies that support same-sex marriage, but Mr Zhang has pointed out to them that most telecommunications, car, bank and supermarket companies in Australia support same-sex marriage, the paper reported.
Despite the online abuse, Ms Liu said it was a “good thing” that Australia’s Chinese community was becoming involved in the political debate and finally learning to act on their opinions in a democratic way.