Over recent weeks, Chinese international students have been involved in incidents suppressing pro-Hong Kong protests.
Late last month, violence erupted at the University of Queensland when a group of Hong Kong secessionist protestors were attacked by Chinese nationalist students. Hong Kong students were assaulted and reportedly subjected to further harassment and intimidation in the days following.
Auckland University experienced similar incidents of intimidation.
In both cases, the Chinese consulate general praised the actions of the perpetrators as “patriotic” for opposing any form of secessionism.
This endorsement from the Chinese consulates general appears to have prompted further acts of aggression from mainland Chinese international students.
Yesterday, The Guardian reported that four masked men destroyed the Hong Kong Lennon wall at the University of Queensland, which had attracted hundreds of notes calling for democracy and solidarity with Hong Kong, and opposing the totalitarianism of the Chinese government:
“We had someone see it around 11pm and it was fine,” he said. “We got reports around midnight that four guys in masks came and just tore everything apart. We have them on the footage. The CCTV got them…
Tension has also flared around other Lennon walls on Australian university campuses.
At the University of Tasmania, a staff member had to intervene on Tuesday to stop a student tearing down pro-Hong Kong posters, according to the ABC. A similar incident took place last week.
The same occurred at the University of Auckland:
The University of Auckland told Newshub three men “were seen ripping the posters off the walls before running towards Princes St with them” on Tuesday night.
“Security attended and spoke with a witness but we don’t have any information about them or where they are from at this stage.”
Newshub has been told the three individuals were Chinese and from other universities.
Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University also had its Hong Kong Lennon wall vandalised by Chinese students:
The student society at a Canadian university has voted to stand up to “bullying” and “harassment” in which a “Lennon Wall” of messages supporting Hong Kong protesters was repeatedly trashed, announcing it will install a mobile version of the wall on wheels to thwart the vandals.
A video posted on YouTube on Wednesday shows a Mandarin-speaking young man methodically ripping apart the wall at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia as someone pleads for him to stop.
Meanwhile, a 100-strong rally held on Tuesday at the University of Auckland, organised in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, was also interrupted by a nationalist Chinese supporter.
Also today, Domain reports this:
Chinese authorities approached the family of an international student who participated in high-profile protests at an Australian university and warned his parents of the potential consequences of political dissent.
The apparent intimidation tactics suggest the Chinese government was monitoring the demonstration at the University of Queensland to record who attended, in a development one influential Liberal MP said was alarming.
The student took part in last month’s event to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and to condemn Beijing’s repression of the Uighur ethnic minority group.
“I was in the protest. When people were recording I was doing my best to hide my face or stay away from the crowd,” the student, who did not want to be identified for fear of repercussions, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
To its credit, the New Zealand Government has raised formal objections with the Chinese Government for endorsing aggression against peaceful Hong Kong protesters:
The Government has rebuked China over its recent comments and actions where it sought to suppress freedom of speech and voiced support for violent opposition to Hong Kong protesters in New Zealand.
On Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials met with Chinese Government representatives in New Zealand to reiterate that freedom of expression would be upheld and maintained, which included on university campuses…
On Tuesday, Ardern confirmed MFAT reiterated the New Zealand’s position on freedom of speech, particularly on university campuses.
“We guard that, that is part of who we are. And I think it is important for those that may take a different view that we are very clear on our expectations.”
MFAT also raised concerns about recent statements from Chinese officials that suggested pro-Hong Kong protests should not occur, and that violence in protest would be justified.
Australia’s educational institutions now domicile more than 200,000 Chinese students, as well as many China-backed Confucius Institute on university campuses.
It’s time Australia follow the New Zealand example and lay out the ground rules for acceptable democratic behaviour for our guests, including diplomatic staff.
With the situation in Hong Kong deteriorating by the day, worsening conflicts on Australian campuses are an obvious risk.