The lawyer for student activist Drew Pavlou has lodged a formal complaint with the University of Queensland (UQ), demanding that the Chinese consul-general of Brisbane be dismissed from an honorary position as adjunct professor after the university said that the diplomat’s behaviour was “unacceptable.”
UQ had told The Guardian a week prior that Consul-General Xu Jie’s controversial actions regarding a campus protest about Hong Kong in his diplomatic capacity would have amounted to a breach of its code of conduct.
As a result, UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese announced the university would “no longer offer honorary professorships to any serving foreign government official.”
However, the university indicated that it had stopped short of disciplinary action as they viewed Xu’s comments as having been made in his role as a diplomat.
However, lawyer Mark Tarrant told The Epoch Times that the university’s code of conduct could be applied to Xu as he served and still serves as an adjunct professor under the university’s banner. Tarrant has not received a reply to his formal complaint to the Chancellor.
The call comes as Pavlou was handed a two-year suspension from the university on May 29 for 11 allegations of misconduct, the details of which have been kept confidential by the university.
The University of Queensland has expelled me, an Australian student, for attacking the Chinese government’s human rights record. Twenty per cent of their revenue comes from China, so my pro-Hong Kong activism threatened their business model. pic.twitter.com/N2KUEveUgT
— Drew Pavlou 柏乐志 (@DrewPavlou) May 29, 2020
It is believed the allegations are linked to Pavlou’s on-campus activism in support of Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy rallies.
The saga has drawn international attention and highlighted concerns around the Chinese communist regime’s influence in Australia’s domestic affairs and educational institutions.
Following the decision, Varghese said in a statement that “[t]here are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me.”
“I have decided to convene an out-of-session meeting of UQ’s Senate next week to discuss the matter,” he added.
Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz told The Epoch Times the matter highlighted the “troubling exertion of undue power and influence by the communist dictatorship on Australia’s universities.”
He said universities were designed to “foster academic discussion and freedom of thought, something the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finds completely alien.”
“The case demonstrates that Australia, like other nations, needs to not only remain vigilant,” he said, “but also fight back against the all-pervasive influence of the CCP on university campuses, and on Hong Kong’s freedom.”
Pavlou is still seeking a protection order against Xu through the courts. He alleges that Xu played a role inciting threats and violence against him in July last year after the diplomat published an official statement on his consulate’s website, accusing protest organisers including Pavlou of “anti-China separatist activities”—a crime punishable by death in communist China.
Xu applauded the actions of the Chinese students, calling it “patriotic behaviour.”
He also said the consulate opposed events which create “opposition between Chinese and Hong Kong students and incite anti-China sentiment.”
Xu was roundly criticised for his comments with Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who told AAP that the Australian federal government expected all “diplomatic representatives to respect these rights [to freedom of speech and peaceful and lawful protest].”
“The government would be particularly concerned if any foreign diplomatic mission were to act in ways that could undermine such rights, including by encouraging disruptive or potentially violent behaviour.”
Varghese told The Guardian that he “thought the foreign minister’s statements were quite appropriate.”
“I don’t think diplomatic representatives ought to interfere in domestic issues in the way that statement did,” he said.
Senator Abetz also condemned the consul-general’s actions saying it was “completely out of step, and unacceptable for a foreign representative to Australia.”
Following the protests, Pavlou received multiple death threats, as well as hundreds of abusive messages on social media from supporters of the Chinese regime. Abusive letters were also posted to his private home address to him and his family.
UQ is yet to respond to the The Epoch Times’s enquiry about their response to Tarrant’s complaint.