Two British MPs have warned Australia that Brisbane student activist Drew Pavlou’s university suspension “typifies the danger that China poses to the world at large.”
The 21-year-old was in May suspended from the University of Queensland for two years following a disciplinary hearing that examined 11 allegations of misconduct reportedly linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticising the Chinese Communist Party.
Pavlou, who remains a student, has appealed the decision while UQ has denied the hearing was related to free speech.
Member of the House of Lords Natalie Bennett and Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell have written to Australia’s UK High Commissioner, George Brandis, outlining their “grave concerns” about the suspension as a “penalty for his remarks about China.”
“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,” they said in the letter.
Pavlou said he was buoyed by the international support but saddened by Beijing’s alleged influence in Australia.
“It’s pretty extraordinary for British MPs to intervene in Australian domestic matters to uphold democratic freedoms,” he told AAP on Thursday.
The arts and philosophy student in June revealed he was claiming $3.5 million in damages against UQ, alleging “deceit, conspiracy, harassment, defamation (and) breach of contract” by the university.
UQ has faced media scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university
The institution is also home to one of Australia’s many Confucius Institutes, which are Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.
By Gus McCubbing