Suspension Upheld for Queensland Student Activist

By AAP
July 13, 2020 Updated: July 13, 2020

A student activist critical of Beijing will remain suspended from the University of Queensland (UQ) until next year after his appeal was quashed. 

Drew Pavlou was in May suspended from UQ following a disciplinary hearing that examined misconduct allegations reportedly linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticising the Chinese Communist Party.

The 21-year-old, who previously said he would take the matter to the Supreme Court, was on Monday informed he would instead be suspended for the remainder of the year and required to complete 25 hours of “campus service.”

“I am devastated but defiant,” Pavlou told AAP.

“I will fight every step of the way in the Supreme Court and will have total exoneration.”

Pavlou was originally handed a two-year suspension and labelled the suspension reduction a “disgusting and cynical move.”

“UQ still achieves its main goal of removing me as an elected student representative, their supposed lenience is just a face-saving PR move,” Pavlou posted on Twitter on Monday.

In the university’s letter to Pavlou, the Senate Discipline Appeals Committee said the former UQ Senate member had shown “no remorse or insight.”

“You have been entirely unapologetic in respect of your behaviour,” the letter said.

“Whilst your conduct may well have been motivated by genuinely held personal beliefs, there is nothing honourable about mistreating others in the pursuit of your causes.”

Pavlou was found guilty of two allegations of serious general misconduct and not guilty of seven other alleged offences.

One of the guilty charges involved Pavlou’s posts on a Facebook page known as UQ Stalkerspace.

The other related to a March 2020 incident in which Pavlou, while wearing a hazmat suit, hung a sign outside the office of UQ Vice Chancellor, Peter Høj, that read: “COVID-19 Biohazard: Condemned.”

Pavlou on social media also described the disciplinary hearing as a “kangaroo court” and said UQ had “bowed to Chinese pressure.”

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.”

UQ has faced media scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered there.

The institution is also home to one of Australia’s many Confucius Institutes, which are Beijing-funded education centres some critics say promote propaganda.

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese on Monday said neither of the findings of serious misconduct concerned Pavlou’s “personal or political views about China or Hong Kong.”

“The University has consistently said that no student should be penalised for the lawful expression of personal views,” Varghese said in a statement. 

“This should finally put to rest the false allegations that this process has been an attack on freedom of expression.

“Contrary to Mr Pavlou’s comments, there were no findings that any of the allegations were fabricated.”

Varghese said SDAC had conducted a “complete rehearing” of the matter and that the decision handed down on Monday concluded the university’s disciplinary process. 

By Gus McCubbing