A top Australian university has been slammed for removing a social media post supporting human rights in Hong Kong after pressure from Chinese nationalists.
Academic and Australian Human Rights Watch director Elaine Pearson wrote the article, which was posted to the University of New South Wales website.
UNSW then promoted the article on its social media pages, but both those posts were mysteriously removed by Saturday.
The article by Ms Pearson, who is also an UNSW adjunct lecturer, was also temporarily removed from the website before reappearing in the business and law section labelled as ‘opinion’.
The move to remove the posts has sparked outrage, with several federal MPs calling it ‘censorship’ and accusing the university of bowing to Chinese pressure.
The piece calling for human rights in Hong Kong (pictured:, pro-democracy supporters scuffle with riot police during an detention at a rally in Causeway Bay district on May 27)
UNSW (pictured, its campus) has been slammed for removing a social media post calling for human rights in Hong Kong after Chinese nationalists complained
The first tweet from the university directly quoted Ms Pearson’s article, saying: ‘Now is a pivotal moment to bring attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Hong Kong’.
An editorial in the Global Times, a mouthpiece for the communist government, demanded an apology from the university – even after the posts were removed.
‘Students who are still outraged have said the university’s behaviour brings ”shame to Chinese students”,’ the article said.
Liberal senator James Paterson accused the university of valuing revenue from Chinese students over academic freedom.
Almost 70 per cent of all overseas enrollments at UNSW come from China.
Ms Pearson said the move to take down the social media posts was worrying, and showed UNSW was bowing to censorship.
‘Clearly those pro-CCP supporters feel they can bully the university into censoring certain views,’ she told The Australian.
Police fire tear gas to clear pro-Democracy protesters during a demonstration on Hungry Ghost Festival day in the Sham Shui Po district on August 14, 2019 in Hong Kong (pictured)
‘I think the university needs to make it very clear that is absolutely not negotiable and that academic freedom is very important to Australian universities.’
She said there was a lot of concern at Australian universities about academic freedom, and ‘particularly around Chinese government threats to that’.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson said the university was showing ‘cowardice’, while Labor senator Tony Sheldon said the move was censorship and there was a ‘big problem’
The university later posted another tweet which said: ‘Opinions expressed by our academics do not always represent the views of UNSW.
‘We have a long and valued relationship with Greater China going back 60 years.’
Both posts were later removed.
A UNSW spokeswoman said the posts were removed because they were ‘not in line with our policies’.
A UNSW spokeswoman said the posts were removed because they were ‘not in line with our policies’ (pictured, the university’s campus in Sydney)
Relations with China are already under heavy strain after Australia led international calls for a coronavirus inquiry (pictured, Chinese soldiers in Tienanmen Square in October)
She said the views of an academic were being misconstrued as representing the university.
‘UNSW protects academic freedom and freedom of speech, respecting the right of academics and others to express their views within the law.’
Relations with China are already under heavy strain after Australia led international calls for a coronavirus inquiry.
Beijing has told students and tourists to stay away from Australia, and penalised beef and barley exports.
China claims Australian law enforcement agencies are targeting Chinese people, ‘arbitrarily’ searching them and seizing their belongings, and has issued a stern warning to its citizens not to travel Down Under.
Australia has enraged Beijing by offering to extend visas for Hongkongers in response to controversial new national security laws.