The city of Wagga Wagga has moved to formally sever ties with its sister cities in China, based on a report that claims the country’s regime is responsible for “death and destruction” from the coronavirus outbreak.
The council vote was pushed through with the support of three conservative councillors, while others, including the city’s mayor Greg Conkey, were absent or unable to vote.
Wes Fang, the Wagga Wagga-based Nationals member of the New South Wales upper house, last night said the decision was “nothing short of appalling”.
Councillor Paul Funnell, the former president of the Democratic Labour party, tabled a report to Tuesday night’s council meeting proposing to end the sister city relationship with Kunming, as well as friendly relationships with the city of Tieling and province of Jiangsu.
“We are therefore in relations with the totalitarian communist regime of the People’s Republic of China,” Funnell said.
“This is the same Chinese communist government that delights in lies, subterfuge and coverups, for example by now trying to claim that the US military is responsible for the spread of Covid-19.
“This very regime has brought death and destruction across the world with Covid-19.
“If we don’t sever ties with the afore mentioned (sic) anti-democratic organisations we are giving tacit approval to the PRC regime that what they are doing is alright, just by our ongoing relationship.
“We must show solidarity with all the victims of Covid-19, health care workers, frontline services, and also to our sister city and friends in places such as Fort Leavenworth in the United States. We must not show solidarity with the very regime that bears ultimate responsibility.
“Council must do the right thing and take a stance to demonstrate its rejection of the corrupt Chinese government that has caused such death, destruction and turmoil across the world.”
Funnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the Wagga News that “arguing against communism is not racism”.
Given the way the vote was passed – a three-three tie, decided by the casting vote of an acting chair, who was decided from a drawing of lots – it will likely be subject to a rescission motion in the coming weeks.
Vanessa Keenan, one of three councillors to oppose the motion, told Guardian Australia she was appalled by the motion.
“It’s disgraceful that fear and hatred are being fuelled in our community by this meaningless action,” she said.
“The actions of three people are not representative of who we are as a community here in Wagga.”
Fang called on the city to rescind its decision.
“To blame our sister city for the events in Wuhan is akin to blaming our other sister city, Nördlingen in Germany, for the events of the past two world wars,” he said.
“Worse, it would be like Wagga Wagga being blamed for something happening in Brisbane, such is the scale of distance between the two cities in China. Would a similar motion have succeeded against Leavenworth, for something that occurred in a separate city within the United States of America?
“The events of the past few months have been particularly difficult for those Chinese-Australians who love our country, but have been abused because of our name and our looks. Tonight’s decision only strengthens those opinions and bigotry against us. We are better than this as a city, a state and as Australians.”