Magistrate Rules Chinese Diplomat Has Immunity in Pavlou Case, Dismisses Legal Action Over Public Comments

August 10, 2020 Updated: August 10, 2020

A Queensland magistrate has dismissed legal action against Brisbane’s Chinese consul-general Xu Jie on Aug. 10 after ruling he has immunity because he was performing the functions of a consular official.

Under Queensland’s Peace and Good Behaviour Act, 20-year-old Drew Pavlou was seeking a retraction of comments made by Xu who, while serving as Brisbane’s Chinese consul-general and an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland (UQ), publicly described a demonstration organised by Pavlou on UQ’s campus as “anti-China separatist activities.”

This left Pavlou fearing for his physical wellbeing after receiving hundreds of death threats.

Pavlou wrote on Twitter after the ruling: “The courts have ruled in favour of Consul-General Xu Jie, saying he has diplomatic immunity to endorse violent attacks against me. The courts cannot help us, we need Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] to protect Australian citizens by expelling Xu Jie as a diplomat.”

Xu’s comments came after Pavlou organised a protest in July 2019 on the UQ campus to support Hongkongers who were protesting a proposed extradition law that threatened the freedoms enjoyed in the former British colony under the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The peaceful protest was interrupted by pro-Beijing figures, and Pavlou was allegedly attacked.

Federal MP Seeks Parliamentary Inquiry Into Foreign Influence on Campuses

Federal MP Bob Katter is pursuing a full parliamentary inquiry into foreign influence at Australian universities.

Katter told The Epoch Times he will also be pursuing a full inquiry into the “actions of the University of Queensland and their non-action” surrounding Pavlou’s case.

“Now, this is a bloke (Pavlou) in his own country, expressing an opinion in the public arena, and he’s bashed up by a bunch a foreign thugs who undoubtedly are working for a communist, totalitarian dictatorship,” he told The Epoch Times.

“That’s not the worst part,” he went on. “One of the four most prestigious universities in the country, they then proceed not to punish the thugs who assaulted students on their campus—they took no action against this bunch of thugs—they took action against the Australian who was organising the demonstration.”

Katter asserted that foreign communist dictatorships are influencing Australian universities and their leadership, writing in the media release that UQ’s suspension of Pavlou exemplifies this.

In a media release on Aug. 7, the Minister for Education Dan Tehan said that the Commonwealth government is “committed to protecting free speech” on campuses and will review how the university sector has progressed implementing the changes outlined in the French Model Code.

Named after former High Court chief justice Robert French AC, the code provides a framework for institutions to ensure that academic freedom and freedom of speech is protected.

Tehan said: “The review will consider areas of strength or weakness in institutional responses to the code and offer suggestions where alignment could be improved.”

UQ has welcomed the review. UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry told The Courier-Mail on Aug. 8  that academic freedom and freedom of speech are a core value for the institution.

“We acknowledge recent commentary may have caused some to question UQ’s commitment to freedom of speech and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate otherwise,” Terry said.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson