University of Queensland gets it badly wrong on China, free speech
The University of Queensland’s cosy relationship with China has ignited a firestorm.
UQ’s purgatory began last July during a peaceful student demonstration in support of the pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters and in solidarity with persecuted Uighurs in Xinjiang. The demonstrators were set upon by what observers said was a well-organised group of about 300 students and non-students, many shouting slogans in Chinese.
As some filmed the rally, the counter-demonstrators snatched the megaphones from the pro-Hong Kong and pro-Uighur protesters and sought to break up the rally. Punches were thrown.
Xu Jie, China’s consul-general in Brisbane, commended the counter-demonstrators for their “acts of patriotism”, while blaming the pro-Hong Kong students for “igniting anger and sparking protests from Chinese students”.
In a highly unusual step, Foreign Minister Marise Payne warned all foreign diplomats in Australia to respect the rights of free speech and peaceful protest.
Amid all this, the press reported that Xu had recently been appointed an adjunct professor at UQ. About a week later, a Sydney newspaper reported that Chinese officials had visited the mother of one of the students at the pro-Hong Kong demonstration — she lives in China — and that she then told her son his safety could be guaranteed only if he stopped his “anti-China rhetoric” and stayed away from other protests.