Taipei, Taiwan – When Kevin Ren moved to Australia from Hong Kong as a child in 1986, he brought a lot of luggage.
In his Melbourne home, Mr Ren recalled, racist remarks had become a part of everyday life – heard on the street, classmates and in the media.
“A lot of racist jokes were told back then, which are now considered absolutely unacceptable,” Yam, a lawyer and Hong Kong democracy activist, told Al Jazeera.
Yam, who spent her adult life commuting between Hong Kong and Australia over the years, was struck by how much Australia had changed.
“Apart from your eccentric drunkards, the reality is that there is a lot of language and behavior against minorities that you can never get away with, at least in the big cities in Australia, and you can in Hong Kong,” he said.
“I think there are occasional drunks who make weird racist remarks in the street, but other than that, no, I don’t have any racism. In fact, I would say that in many ways, not only is racism in Australia worse than I grew up here a lot less, and I would say it’s less racist than Hong Kong in general.”
Mr Ren’s experience mirrors that of Chinese-Australians more generally, according to a new survey showing incidents of racism in Australia, while not uncommon, have decreased over the past three years.
The proportion of Australians of Chinese descent who are said to be called offensive names has fallen by a third between 2020 and 2022, according to the latest annual survey by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, released on Wednesday. .
While 31% of Australians of Chinese descent said they experienced verbal abuse in 2020, this figure dropped to 25% in 2021 and 21% last year, “Being Chinese in Australia: Public opinion in the Chinese community” research has shown.
According to the poll, 35% of respondents have experienced being treated differently or less favorably because of their background, up from 37% in 2020
14% said they had been physically threatened or assaulted in 2022, down from 18% in 2020.
Young Australians and Chinese-Australians were slightly more likely to report negative experiences during this period, including the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened tensions between the Australian and Chinese governments.
The vast majority of respondents (92%) rated Australia as a “very good place to live”, up from 77% at the start of the survey in 2020, with older respondents or those who had spent a longer period of time in Australia Visitors are more positive about the country.
Three-quarters of respondents said they would feel “good or moderate” about belonging to Australia by 2022, up from 71% in 2020 and 64% in 2021.
Chinese-Australian attachment to China has also dropped from 23% in 2020 to 18%.
Despite a decline in attachment to China, the Chinese app WeChat remains an important source of news, with 47% of respondents using it, although about half said they doubt the fairness and accuracy of the information it provides sex.
About two-thirds said they were confident they would be able to spot fake news and disinformation.
The poll is based on responses from 1,200 Australian residents – including citizens, permanent residents and non-tourist visa holders – who are considered to be of Chinese descent, surveyed between September and December last year.
Australia is home to 1.4 million Chinese-Australians, one of the largest ethnic groups in the country.
The Chinese first immigrated to Australia in the mid-19th century, but were restricted by the “White Australia” policy in the first half of the 20th century.
Race-based immigration restrictions were relaxed after World War II and officially abolished in the 1970s.