Australia’s prime minister has launched his election campaign with an embarrassing gaffe, speaking in Chinese to an Asian voter – who responded “no, I’m Korean”.
The Liberal Party leader chose the city’s multicultural Strathfield suburb as the setting for his opening full day of campaigning.
Shaking hands with one woman as a pack of journalists watched on, he said: “Hello, how are you? Ni hao, how are you?” – ni hao being the Mandarin Chinese for “hello”.
“No, no, no, I’m Korean,” the woman responded.
Mr Morrison briefly paused to listen to the woman before moving on to greet someone else.
The awkward exchange came moments after he visited a Korean restaurant in Strathfield, which has sizeable Chinese and Korean migrant populations.
The reaction on social media to Mr Morrison’s gaffe was mixture of mockery and dismay.
“Strathfield has a high population of Koreans. To assume they are Chinese is racist and quite stupid,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Scott Morrison walking around Strathfield Plaza saying ni hao to people he thinks are Chinese has set a very high standard for the rest of the campaign to match,” said another.
Michael Hing, a Sydney comedian who this week announced a bid for election to Australia’s senate after starting a party named One Asian, joked: “My first policy if elected will be mandatory ‘Which kind of Asian are they?’ training for Scott Morrison.”
The prime minister’s blunder came after shortly after he implied the rival Labour Party had a racism problem.
After deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said Australians could “not rely on an Indian mining company to bring jobs”, the prime minister told a press conference: “I think there’s form here from the Labour Party.
“At the recent state election, we had [Labour politician] Michael Daley saying Asians will take your jobs. Now we’ve got Tanya Plibersek, who would be deputy prime minister of the country, saying that Indian businesses can’t create jobs.”
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