Posted on May 13, 2010

Chinese Australians Angry at Gallipoli TV Casting

Nick Bryant, BBC News, May 8, 2010

There has been an angry reaction in Australia after television producers cast a Caucasian man in the role of a Chinese-Australian war hero.

Billy Sing was a hero of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, but a TV drama has him cast as a white man.

The producers say they could not find a 60-year-old Chinese actor to play Billy Sing’s father, so both parts will be played by white actors.

They have been accused of re-writing Australian history.

Billy Sing was known as the “Gallipoli assassin”, the son of a Chinese man and English woman, who became a hero of the Australian forces during World War I by killing more than 200 enemy troops.

The recipient of a Distinguished Conduct medal, his memory is cherished within the Chinese-Australian community.

That’s why there’s been such an angry reaction to the decision of the producers of the television mini-series, The Legend of Billy Sing, to cast a white man in the lead.

The director, Geoff Davis, actually picked his son, Josh, to play the role, and defended the decision by saying that he could not find a 60-year-old Chinese actor to play Billy Sing’s father.

He therefore decided that both men should be Caucasian.

But Chinese-Australians have complained that young people will now grow up thinking that Billy Sing was white, and that is a betrayal of their heritage.

The head of a Chinese-Australian youth association said that “whiting out” Billy Sing was not only a gross historical misrepresentation but treading on the grave of a true Chinese-Australian hero.