Australia faces up to race violence - again

By Time of article published Aug 1, 2004

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It began with race hate posters being plastered around Perth, and escalated into a campaign of beating up Asian migrants and firebombing Chinese restaurants in the city.

That was the late 1980s, and the violence fizzled out when Jack van Tongeren, leader of the far-right Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM), was jailed in 1990.

Now Van Tongeren is free the racist attacks have resumed and Perth's ethnic minorities are living in fear once again.

In the past fortnight, synagogues and shops have been daubed with swastikas and racist slogans.

On Friday the state attorney general Jim McGinty left a meeting in Adelaide and flew home to protect his family after being informed of threats against him.

Van Tongeren has disowned the racist graffiti. But in a video sent to local media, he warned that public figures who supported "Asianisation and multiracialism and the destruction of our ... Aussie way of life" would be "found guilty of treason and dealt with accordingly".

The video named McGinty as one of the "guilty" men, together with the state premier, Geoff Gallop, the police commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, and Dennis Richardson, head of the ASIO intelligence agency.

On Thursday police issued a

state-wide alert for Van Tongeren after using a battering ram to break down the door of his house in Gingin, north of Perth.

He has gone into hiding.

Van Tongeren served 12 years in jail after being convicted of 53 offences including arson, assault and conspiracy to drive Asians out of Western Australia.

Since being released in 2002, he has mainly kept a low profile, claiming to have given up urban terrorism.

The white supremacist ANM terrorised Perth's Asian community for three years in the 1980s, conducting its own version of "ethnic cleansing". A number of racially-motivated killings took place. Australia's Asian neighbours were alarmed.

Among the Chinese restaurants recently vandalised was Foo Win, which was one of three firebombed in February.

Aline Foo, the owner, said it was very upsetting to be targeted twice.

"Life goes on, we still have to carry on," she said. "My livelihood is here."

Five people have been charged with criminal damage and racial vilification in relation to the graffiti attacks. Three were previously linked with the ANM.

Van Tongeren described the attacks as "explosions of anger" about migrants.

"When they come into our country in an invasion size... they must realise they're not wanted," he said.

The threat against McGinty is believed to be part of a plot that goes beyond the vague menaces of the video.

A similar threat was made against the president of the Ethnic Communities Council of Western Australia, Suresh Rajan.

The West Australian newspaper reported that the plot to harm public figures had been hatched by the ANM's "so-called paramilitary arm". It said police feared that members bore weapons.

Howard, the prime minister, dismissed Van Tongeren's threats in a radio interview.

But he added: "I'm also somebody, as you know, that's a very strong supporter of what you might call the traditional symbols of Australia. I don't want to see the Australian identity and the Australian character as we understand it to disappear."

The acting state premier, Eric Ripper, said: "We had this more than a decade ago in Western Australia. It was stamped out, and we want it stamped out again." - Independent Foreign Service

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