UQ case ‘typifies the danger of China’



UK parliamentarians have warned the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom that the Drew Pavlou saga "typifies the danger that China poses to the world at large".

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong Baroness Natalie Bennett and Conservative MP and APPG New Zealand and Australia chair Andrew Rosindell, wrote to Australia's High Commissioner George Brandis QC, firing "warning shots over China's restrictions of Academic freedom in Australia".

They outlined their "grave concerns" about Mr Pavlou's suspension from the University of Queensland, after "criticizing the university's strong links with the Chinese Government".

"We are deeply perturbed by these reports and the subsequent implications for academic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to protest and other political freedoms that underpin the Western world," the letter said.

"If the reports are accurate, then this move typifies the danger that China poses to the world at large."

"We ask you urgently to look into this matter to ensure that Australia's educational institutions are rid of any external influence which curtails the foundational freedoms that guarantee the high quality and legitimacy of the western world's educational standards," the letter said.

However, a University of Queensland spokeswoman said "as stated yesterday, the University is happy to brief any Australian government agency on any aspect of our business - including our international engagements."

Mr Pavlou said it was "remarkable" that the officials had called on the Australian High Commissioner to intervene.

"It is deeply saddening that the situation in Australia with regard to Chinese Communist Party influence has deteriorated such that this kind of intervention in support of fundamental democratic principles is now a necessity."

It comes as the student is awaiting the outcome of his appeal today against the university-imposed two-year suspension over 11 allegations of misconduct.

The University of Queensland has strongly maintained that student disciplinary matters were not a free-speech issue and has previously rejected "unsubstantiated accusations about any political motivations".

In a previous public statement, the University said it was an active defender of freedom of speech, and that everyday life at UQ demonstrated their ongoing commitment to its protection and promotion.

The Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom has been contacted.


Originally published as UQ case 'typifies the danger of China'