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Australian unis failing Hong Kong students

  • 14 September 2019


On 31 March 2019, protests in Hong Kong began over an extradition bill that would severely limit Hong Kong's freedoms and civil liberties. The city has been in a state of turmoil for months and some of that unrest has spilt over into other countries that host a large number of Chinese students.

Australia has about 17,000 international students from Hong Kong. Many of these students share the same political views as their brethren back home, which was clear by the number of student protests in universities in Brisbane and Sydney as well as by the general Hong Kong (HK) public in the Melbourne CBD over the last few weeks.

Each of these protests has been met with violence and anger by international students and Chinese nationalists from the People's Republic of China (PRC). At the University of Queensland (UQ), the HK students were attacked. At the University of Sydney, its Lennon wall — which has long been a symbol of HK's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement — was torn down. More troubling is the accusation by the editor of student newspaper Sin Hoit that these actions were taken not just by Chinese students, but specifically Chinese students within the students union —whose job is to protect student freedoms.

This is a story that is repeating itself in other parts of the world. At the pro-HK protests in Toronto, Chinese nationalists blockaded traffic with their luxury cars, sending an unsubtle message about Chinese wealth and power. In Vancouver, mainlanders called the HK protestors 'useless teens all raised by prostitutes' and again used luxury cars to signal their superiority over HK. In New Zealand, a HK student was shoved to the ground by mainland students. The Lennon walls in both UQ and at the University of Tasmania were torn down — in the middle of the night by masked men.

There has been little to no reaction from Australian universities in dealing with this besides the usual platitudes. HK students might not have many rights back home, but they do have rights in the Western democracies they are living in. The violence against peaceful protestors not just in HK but in other countries where HK students are exercising their basic rights is unsettling. Yet the response by universities all over Australia has been taciturn at best.

Chinese money is a large reason for the reticence of these universities to take decisive action against those who would violently trample over the rights