A four-hour standoff turned violent when pro-China students at the University of Queensland (UQ) confronted students supportive of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong on July 24, with some Hong Kong students now fearing for their safety after receiving death threats.
The trigger for the rally was the protests in Hong Kong against a proposed extradition bill that would allow citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan to be deported and face trial in mainland China.
In subsequent protests, students have called on the university to cut ties with Chinese state-run organisations, specifically through UQ’s Confucius Institute, due to China’s discriminatory policies towards Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong citizens.
Left-wing organisations at UQ have stood in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
The national executive of the National Tertiary Education Union, which covers university academics and professional staff, expressed its support for Hong Kong trade unions involved in the pro-democracy protests, in a motion passed on August 17.
The motion said the union “condemns violence and intimidation and stands with those seeking to protect freedom of expression and freedom of assembly whether that be in Hong Kong or on campuses”.
It also added it was important to counter the influence exerted on Australian universities by all “external funders including government, non-government, and commercial entities, whether foreign or domestic.
“As a vital component of a free and open society universities must jealously guard their institutional independence and not compromise the core principles of institutional autonomy and academic and intellectual freedom.”
However, right-wing elements are attempting to use these protests to stoke anti-Chinese racism by shifting the focus from China’s policies to the presence of China and Chinese students in Australia.
Public commentators, such as far-right senator Pauline Hanson and News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, have been vocal in pushing an anti-China agenda and demonising Chinese students.
In a remake of Cold War propaganda, they are promoting a scare campaign about a so-called “red menace” buying up “our” farms and infiltrating “our” educational institutions.
Many Chinese-Australians and overseas students are feeling the effects of their racist campaign.
It is therefore vital that, in campaigning in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, no room is given to those promoting anti-Chinese racism.