Attack against Chinese students on Australia train prompts fury online

Updated: 2012-04-26 08:13

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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An assault against two Chinese students on Monday on a train from Sydney whipped social networks into a fury in both countries, prompting a reaction from local legal authorities.

Police said six people, aged 14 to 18, robbed passengers, including two Chinese students, on a train between Sydney and Rockdale around 12:30 am on Monday (local time), the Sydney Morning Herald said on its website on Wednesday.

Officers were called to Rockdale station, where they arrested three men, a 14-year-old boy and two girls.

China's consulate-general in Sydney contacted the two Chinese and provided consular assistance on Monday night. The consulate also warned local Chinese from unnecessary commuting at night.

Local police said there were four more passengers assaulted in the case in addition to the two Chinese. The six suspects were charged with robbery and assault offenses on Tuesday.

"We hope Australia can beef up public security and provide better circumstances for expats in the country," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a response on Wednesday.

Hours after the assault on Monday, blogger XuanHao, who claimed to be one of the victims of the attack, posted messages about the assault on, a leading social network in China.

A picture showing a bruised nose was also attached to his micro blog, which received thousands of comments within the first day and was forwarded throughout major social networks in China.

On Wednesday, however, the Chinese micro blogger deleted all the blogs related to the assault's details to "ensure his privacy and eliminate rumors in the comments attached to the posts".

Yet online fury and looming concerns were sparked over the safety of international students in Australia.

Another micro blogger, Jingziyu, even contacted former Australian foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd for help, requesting a boost in communication with local authorities.

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking Australian political figure who is quite familiar to the Chinese public, contacted some key officials of both countries, including Australia's minister for immigration and the deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In one of his Mandarin micro blogs on Tuesday, Rudd said he had talked to the police chief of the state and was informed of the case.

"Apart from the two Chinese students, other people were also robbed. The attack was not directed at Chinese citizens," said Rudd, who also expressed his hatred toward racism on his Mandarin micro blog, which was launched in mid-April.

In recent years, foreign political figures and organizations have launched micro blog accounts to beef up their presence in China's social networks.

Tian Zhihui, a professor in new media at the Communication University of China, said the overseas politicians' micro blog boom is aimed at further reaches into the Chinese netizens, in which "the well-educated public makes a major trunk".

"It is a coincidence that Rudd's micro blog was launched days before the assault case, and the social network's huge influence has played a role in the spreading of the case's details," Tian said, adding that the Australian side made timely responses to the online concerns.