News, Culture & Society

University of Queensland suspend student for China criticism

A student who dared to criticise the Chinese government and lead a pro-Hong Kong protest has been suspended by the University of Queensland. 

Drew Pavlou, 20, is a passionate student activist due to graduate in just six months, but has been suspended after criticising the university for its ties to Beijing. 

He led a series of campus demonstrations last year, in support of Hong-Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

The activist also posted messages to social media criticising China’s authoritarian regime and denounced the university’s close financial ties with the Communist Party.  

It has around 10,000 Chinese students, bringing in $150 million in student fees each year. 

He accused the University of Queensland, where he is enrolled studying philosophy, of behaving like the country’s communist government after it suspended him for two years.

Drew Pavlou (pictured) is a passionate activist for Taiwan and Hong Kong independence, as well as an anti-poverty campaigner

The fourth-year philosophy student (pictured) led a series of demonstrations on the campus last year, in support of Hong-Kong's pro-democracy protests

The fourth-year philosophy student (pictured) led a series of demonstrations on the campus last year, in support of Hong-Kong’s pro-democracy protests

Speaking after his suspension on Friday following a controversial disciplinary hearing, he said the university hadn’t given any good reason for its decision.

‘Refusing to provide exonerating evidence, calling no witnesses and providing no reasoning for my expulsion during a secret hearing no one was supposed to know about,’ he said.

‘What an amazing standard UQ has set in regards to transparency – at least by Beijing’s standards.’ 

Mr Pavlou faced a disciplinary hearing on May 20 at the university over 11 allegations of misconduct, detailed in a confidential 186-page document.

It is reportedly linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticising the Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese consul general in Brisbane Xu Jie (pictured, left) serves as an honorary professor at the University of Queensland

Chinese consul general in Brisbane Xu Jie (pictured, left) serves as an honorary professor at the University of Queensland

The University of Queensland has faced intense scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university.

It is also home to one of Australia’s many Confucius Institutes – Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.

The Chinese consul general in Brisbane, Xu Jie, even serves as an honorary professor at the university.

Mr Pavlou led a series of campus demonstrations last year, in support of Hong-Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

He also posted messages to social media criticising China’s authoritarian regime and denounced the university’s close financial ties with the Communist Party.

 The university ordered Mr Pavlou’s suspension on Friday after the 20-year-old student left the previous hearing after about one hour, citing procedural unfairness.

Mr Pavlou told reporters he views the suspension as ‘an expulsion for all intensive purposes’ as he was due to graduate in six months.

Mr Pavlou was named in a Chinese state media article by Mr Xu (pictured) and accused of being 'anti-China'

Mr Pavlou was named in a Chinese state media article by Mr Xu (pictured) and accused of being ‘anti-China’

‘I think they’re using the term suspension to talk down just how harsh this punishment actually is,’ Mr Pavlou said on Friday.

‘They’ve been threatening me with suspensions ever since last year.’

Mr Pavlou says he found out about the suspension via email at 4pm on Friday. The email allegedly asked him to keep the outcome confidential.

‘I absolutely p**s on their rule book when it comes to confidentiality,’ the Brisbane student said.

‘They’re trying to do me over in the shadows. F**k that. No way.’

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese said on Friday he was concerned with the outcome of the disciplinary action against Mr Pavlou.

University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou (pictured) has been suspended by the university after speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party

University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou (pictured) has been suspended by the university after speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party

‘There are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me,’ Mr Varghese said in a statement.

‘In consultation with the vice chancellor, who has played no role in this disciplinary process, I have decided to convene an out-of-session meeting of UQ’s Senate next week to discuss the matter.’

Mr Pavlou said he found it hard to believe the chancellor and vice chancellor had no part in his punishment and questioned the independence of the disciplinary board.

‘They (the UQ chancellor and vice chancellor) directed this from the beginning. There is no way they wouldn’t have known about it. It’s a joke.’

A UQ spokeswoman said on Friday the institutions disciplinary matters are dealt with under the Student Integrity and Misconduct policy.

Mr Pavlou said he will now appeal the decision with the assistance of his lawyer, Tony Morris QC.  

‘We’re going to immediately appeal this decision in an independent court of law outside UQ.’ 

Mr Pavlou recently took Mr Xu to court after being attacked at a rally by Chinese nationalists.

‘In July 2019, I led a peaceful campus sit-in calling for UQ to completely cut ties with the Chinese state until Tibetans were freed, Uighur detention camps were closed, and Hong Kongers were afforded greater democracy,’ he said.

‘Masked pro-CCP heavies violently attacked our rally, assaulting me and choke-slamming other pro-Hong Kong students to the ground.’

Following the ugly incident, Mr Pavlou was named in a Chinese state media article by Mr Xu and accused of being ‘anti-China’.

As a result, Mr Pavlou claims he then received death threats, unsettling phone calls and letters.

The University of Queensland said in a statement, it rejects the ‘unsubstantiated’ claims and is not attempting to prevent students from expressing their personal political views or trying to limit their right to freedom of speech.

Mr Pavlou (pictured) claims he's being unfairly targeted by the university after speaking out against China's authoritarian regime

Mr Pavlou (pictured) claims he’s being unfairly targeted by the university after speaking out against China’s authoritarian regime

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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