by Xinhua Writers Bai Xu, Yue Dongxing
CANBERRA, Feb, 23 (Xinhua) -- The China stage at the annual Australian National Multicultural Festival in 2020 was less glitzy, as actors and actresses in China were unable to come due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, it seemed to attract more visitors this year, who signed their names and left encouraging words on a banner bearing the slogan: Be Strong, China!
This year sees the 24th version of the National Multicultural Festival, one of the largest events of its kind in Australia which ran from Friday to Sunday.
As of Saturday noon, the banner has collected more than 500 signatures in less than a day.
"Good luck Wuhan, hopefully a cure or vaccine is found soon," wrote Julie Bennett, a doctor who wanted to send a message that China is not alone combating the epidemic.
"It's a sad situation. We support all our friends and brothers and sisters in China," Bennett told Xinhua, adding she also would like to send a message to the Chinese combating the epidemic: "You are not alone."
"Be strong Wuhan," Alice Yeardley wrote carefully in Chinese characters. She is a student from the Australian National University and has several Chinese schoolmates who were not able to return for the new semester due to the epidemic. "Hope everything gets better in the future," she said.
"Dear Wuhan, I am sorry for your pain and grief," Natasha Cross wrote. The librarian had studied with people from China before and said they were all lovely people.
Louise Salway signed with her young children Joey and Delilah. "My daughter has got a teacher from China," she said. "We understand it must be really hard for people (in China) at the moment, but we support you."
Kylie Gibson who worked for the Department of Defense has planned to go to China this year before her trip was canceled. "We love you and give you strength. Visit you soon," she wrote.
The three-day event saw local residents at different ages and with different skin colors coming to sign on the banner. According to Robert Johnson, a Chinese Australian Liberal candidate who initiated the campaign, more than 2,000 people have signed as of Saturday evening.
Some people thanked Wuhan and China for their efforts to contain the epidemic, while others expressed their wishes.
Johnson showed Xinhua signatures of David Hurley, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and his wife Linda.
"We would like to send the banner ultimately to Wuhan to let people there know that we in Canberra are with them," he told Xinhua.
The banner signing was not the only event to show people's support to China.
The Chinese lion and dragon dancers are the first squad among all groups participating in the street parade on Saturday, which drew over 2,000 performers representing different cultures. Before they started, the Chinese performers shouted "Be Strong China, Be Strong Wuhan."
Volunteers held a box in the street, where some visitors donated for Wuhan.
"We congratulate the Chinese government for all that you're doing to manage the situation, and we look forward to or being resolved very soon," said Alistair Coe, leader of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
He noted that more than 160 languages are spoken in Canberra and a very important component of the city is the Chinese community.
"We have a wonderful Chinese community in Canberra," he said. "We're blessed to have an extraordinary contribution in so many different sectors."
This view was shared by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr who told Xinhua that the National Multicultural Festival is an event that brings people from all over the world to celebrate cultural diversity.
"We understand just how difficult it is in China at the moment. So we encourage everyone to stay strong and to be passionate," he said.
"I'm sure that the world health authorities and Chinese health authorities will be continuing to work to contain the virus and create a vaccine, and we do hope that things will return to normal as soon as possible...The future will be bright once we get through."
"I was touched by the Chinese communities here showing their love and support to those affected by the COVID-19 epidemic," said Wang Xining, minister of the Chinese Embassy to Australia.
He said the embassy received messages from Australian people of all walks of life, including businessmen, headmasters from universities, and politicians.
"I am sure that under the leadership of our government, the epidemic could be quickly contained, and may our relationship with Australia see a new opportunity of development afterwards," Wang said.