Late last month, the University of Queensland descended into violence when pro-Chinese international students attacked Hong Kong students protesting against a controversial extradition law. These China nationalists were filmed tearing down banners, as well as punching and shoving the protesters.
Following the scenes, Hong Kong students were reported to have experienced further attacks off campus, received death threats, and were subject to surveillance, with many now too scared to show their faces.
Rather than censure the violence from the offending Chinese nationalists, as well as deal out appropriate penalties and suspensions, the top brass at the University of Queensland instead went soft, issuing a motherhood statement only:
In a statement, UQ said it expected staff and students to “express their views in a lawful and respectful manner, and in accordance with the policies and values of the university”.
“Earlier today, in response to safety concerns resulting from a student-initiated protest on campus, the University requested police support,” the UQ statement said.
“On the advice of police, protestors were requested to move on. The safety of all students is paramount to the university.”
Student Union president Georgia Milroy described the scenes as “frightening”
The reason for the insipid response from the University of Queensland is obvious: it has sold-out to the Chinese Government, and any strong response would have put at risk the millions of dollars the University receives from Chinese interests.
Evidence of this sell-out to the Chinese is standing in plain sight.
The University of Queensland is one of nine Australian universities to have a China-backed Confucius Institute on campus – an official program to promote Chinese language and culture.
The University has also signed agreements explicitly stating it “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality” at its centre.
And on 15 July, the Brisbane Chinese consul-general, Xu Jie, who had praised the “acts of patriotism” of the violent counter-protest by the Chinese nationalists, was made an adjunct professor of language and culture at the University of Queensland:
Clive Hamilton, a professor at Charles Sturt University and the author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, rightfully slammed this appointment:
“Appointing a serving foreign diplomat to a university post is unheard of … It shows how the University of Queensland has become so starry-eyed about China that it has lost its judgment.”
While bad enough in isolation, the alarming affair at the University of Queensland has also raised concerns about how the dependence of Australia’s universities on Chinese international students is compromising both education standards as well as freedom. Matthew Lesh – an adjunct fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs – summarises these concerns:
The ability of pro-CCP forces to mobilise hundreds of people on one Australian campus in a couple of hours should raise eyebrows. There are more than 152,000 Chinese students at Australian universities, making up almost 40 per cent of Australia’s $34 billion international student market…
This places hundreds of thousands of students who have sympathies with, and are closely monitored by, a heavily authoritarian regime at our universities. This has a chilling effect on campus culture and classroom discussion…
The large number of Chinese students could help explain the University of Queensland’s insipid response to recent events…
The thirst for Chinese student money must not be allowed to undermine the critical capacity of our higher-education institutions.
Total Chinese international student enrolments across Australia have roughly doubled over the past seven years to more than 200,000:
While Queensland has indeed experienced strong growth, this has been dwarfed by New South Wales and Victoria, which together account for around three-quarters of Australia’s total Chinese international student enrolments:
As noted by Matthew Lesh, Confucius Institutes have also proliferated across Australia’s universities, and their influence even extends into the New South Wales Government:
There is now a Confucius Institute at nine Australian universities, including many of the prestigious Group of Eight institutions such as the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, NSW, and Queensland. There is even one integrated into the NSW Department of Education.
These institutes are funded and overseen by the Hanban, a fully funded subsidiary of China’s Ministry of Education. Their formal mission is to promote Chinese language and culture, and in doing so provide an uncritical view of Chinese society. They typically include one local director and one Chinese director appointed by the Hanban, providing direct influence inside our universities.
As the Communist Party of China becomes more aggressive in a deteriorating US/China cold war, the University of Queensland experience is a worrying harbinger for university freedoms and social harmony.