Australian Students Claim Free Speech Violations
The University of Queensland in Australia is facing accusations of free speech suppression made by an organizer of the Hong Kong sympathy rallies in Australia, according to the Economist.
The sympathy rallies started as a result of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. During the Australian rally held in July, Chinese nationalists violently disrupted the demonstrators. Relative to population, Australia hosts the most international students in the world, with a third of them coming from China, as reported by the Economist.
Moreover, the Economist reports that 13 campuses in Australia, including the University of Queensland, have a Confucius Institute, a Chinese language school, which is funded by the Chinese government. Some academics and activists have accused these Confucius Institutes of limiting discussions on sensitive topics regarding China.
Concerns over free speech limitations began to grow when Federal Parliament Member Andrew Hastie claimed that Australian freedoms were at stake.
Australian universities tend to deny any attempts at limiting free speech. South China Morning Post reports that Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney Michael Spence said that it was “kind of dumb” that students were arguing that supporters of the Chinese government shouldn’t be on campus.
Some university students have reported threats, including one incident in which Chinese officials went to a student’s home in China to warn his family of the consequences they could face for dissenting.
Australian universities claim they are working with the Australian government to “safeguard security.” However, there have been no efforts to limit universities’ current financial dependence on China. Federal officials may eventually get involved if the government determines the issue to be a security risk.