“We’re living in a period where the only Australians that are asked to undertake a loyalty test are Chinese Australians and I think that is very degrading and regrettable,” he said.
He said voicing criticism of the Chinese Communist Party came with risks for Chinese Australians, as it could put their family members in China in danger.
But Senator Bragg declined to directly link his comments to Senator Abetz’s line of questioning, saying: “I’m not making any comments on any of my colleagues.”
The Senate inquiry was examining issues facing diaspora communities in Australia, and the three witnesses – Yun Jiang, Osmond Chiu, Wesa Chau – were called to give evidence on the experience of Chinese Australians.
During the course of their evidence, Senator Abetz requested “each of the three witnesses to very briefly tell me whether they are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship? It’s not a difficult question.”
Following the backlash to his questioning, Senator Abetz released a statement defending his actions, saying “at no point did I question the loyalty of anyone. I did not even mention the word ‘loyalty’.”
Mr Chiu, who was born in Australia and is a research fellow at the Per Capita think tank, later described the question as “demeaning”.
“It felt like a gotcha loyalty test, an attempt to goad me, reducing me to a foreigner who needed to show which side I was on,” Mr Chiu wrote in an opinion piece.
In a statement after the hearing, Ms Jiang, a China analyst who previously worked in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, said she had already spoken extensively about the human rights situation in China.
“And I did this publicly, under my name, despite having most of my family in China,” Ms Jiang tweeted.
Ms Chau, Labor’s deputy lord mayor candidate for Melbourne, said in a statement that the question was “race-baiting McCarthyism”.