Australia's Chinese community is calling for government action after an attack on international high school students at a Canberra bus stop last week left a teenager in hospital.
Chinese media and local community groups have warned the attack could damage the capital's reputation as a safe study destination, and shift Chinese attitudes towards Australia.
On Tuesday, China's peak advocacy group in Australia rejected claims by the ACT government that the assault of three international students in Woden was isolated.
Dr Anthony Punn, President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia, called on both state and federal governments to put in place measures "that would prevent these racist' attacks" or else "risk bad relations between Australia and China".
"It would appear that extreme views have become the norm which provide the impetus for a young person to commit racial crimes," Dr Punn said.
"[Our] students must be protected."
The number of Chinese students studying in ACT high schools and colleges has jumped by more than 70 per cent in the past five years, up from 277 in 2013 to 475 today, and international education remains Canberra's biggest export.
Friends of the victims claim offenders screamed racial slurs at the group during last week's attack, though police said the incident was not racially motivated. Two people had since been arrested.
Students who spoke to The Canberra Times said they were still terrified to travel to school in Canberra's south, where they continued to be harassed.
President of the ACT Chinese Australian's Association Chin Wong said the Woden incident was very serious but the association did not think it was directly targeting Chinese students.
"We've seen real racism here, but a group in Woden have been known to bother all kinds of people, all over," Ms Wong said.
"The question we now have for the police is why hasn't something been done?"
Ms Wong said the community had been working with ACT Policing as well as the ACT education directorate to support students.
While the association acknowledged the work of police, Ms Wong said Canberra could do more to look after international students, particularly those who were underage and living far from home under the guardianship of the directorate. Home-stay families, she suggested, could be more closely screened for suitability.
"A lot of students think if they complain, then they've got no where to go, or their visa will be terminated," Ms Wong said.
"Some student say they don't want to fight back because they don't want to get in trouble."
High school students often came to Canberra to get a taste of the city and improve their English before deciding to study at an Australian university, Ms Wong said.
In the wake of the Woden attack, some students complained their homestay families had enforced curfews on them at the insistence of the directorate but said staying home after 6pm "wouldn't solve anything".
A spokeswoman for the directorate said all students were required to be home by 6pm for dinner to check-in with their homestay families and had been briefed of these requirements on arrival in Australia.
Volunteers within the Chinese community were now offering international students free rides to and from school. Ms Wong said the incident had exposed racial tension but also brought the community together.
Having moved to Canberra more than 30 years ago as an international student herself, she still thought the capital was a great place for students.
A student in China told The Canberra Times she had been excited to join her brother in Canberra next year but was now "definitely rethinking it".
In an editorial on Monday, major Chinese newspaper Global Times called on Australia to take "strong measures to eliminate the impact" of the Woden violence.
"This incident and the series of recent negative events and comments against Chinese in Australia will constitute a turning point, reshaping Chinese people's foundation for understanding Australian society," the Global Times wrote.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra said it had "expressed concerns" to the government regarding the Woden assault and would be watching the outcome of investigations closely.
As Australia's $21.8 billion international education market continues to boom, Canberra is home to more than 19,000 foreign students.
Lowy Institute director of East Asia programs Merriden Varrall said the incident "could certainly affect decision making" by safety conscious Chinese students considering studying in Australia.
Last week, international students took to social media to voice their alarm over the Woden incident and share stories of bullying and harassment in Canberra. A change.org petition was launched on Thursday to call for further action protecting international students in Woden. It has already attracted almost 4000 signatures.
ACT Policing did respond to requests for comment before deadline.
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