Greek-Australian student, Drew Pavlou, is facing a University of Queensland disciplinary hearing on April 27, where university administrators will likely expel the philosophy student.
Pavlou is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government and defender of the Hong Kong rioters, and therein lies the problem for the University of Queensland.
In an interview on Sky News, Pavlou said he has a court case against Dr. Xu Jie, China’s Consul General in Brisbane who is also an honorary professor at the University of Queensland.
“I’m taking him to court because he labelled me as a separatist and endorsed the violent attacks I faced at UQ,” Pavlou said.
Pavlou recounted how during an anti-Communist Party of China rally in July last year, not only was he attacked and punched, but he and his family had death threats made against them.
The student of Greek-Cypriot parents also explained on Sky News the close ties that the University of Queensland has with China, saying: “The university relies on a steady income stream from Chinese students, they rely on the Chinese market to basically remain solvent.”
The University of Queensland made 11 allegations of misconduct against Pavlou in a 186-page document they presented to the student, claiming that he had harmed the reputation of the university.
In one incident in March, Pavlou protested in front of the university’s Confucius Institute and announcing that the Chinese state-funded centre was a coronavirus “biohazrd.”
Although his actions were certainly provocative, the discussion should not revolve around his actions or into a debate about China, but rather it should be focused on whether free speech exists in Australia, and especially on university campuses where free ideas should be encouraged and non-violent protests tolerated, where Pavlou’s rights have been violated.
Pavlou criticises China for its limits on free speech but is now facing the same restrictions he levels against China from an Australian university.
Speaking to Greek City Times about this, Pavlou said “I always expected that as an Australian citizen I enjoyed the right to free speech and my activism would be protected by that. It’s one of our dearest freedoms and so to see it taken away is horrible and scary.”
“I am deeply passionate about fighting for human rights, my main political concern is fighting to uphold the human dignity of the vulnerable,” he added.
The student also revealed to Greek City Times that his family hailed from Larnaca in Cyprus’ south coast and that he had revolutionary heritage with his grandmother’s brother becoming a martyr as an EOKA fighter against British occupation. With a martyr in his family, it can be seen why he feels passionate to ardently defend a cause he believes in.
However, a spokeswoman for the University of Queensland said students must comply with conduct policies “that reflect both the organisation’s values and community expectations,” adding that “the university rejects Mr Pavlou’s statement that the university’s process is an attempt to penalise him for airing his political beliefs.”
Olivia Brumm, president of the student union at the Queensland University of Technology, on invitation by Pavlou reviewed the 186-page document and concluded that it was “absurdly trivial or obviously satirical” compiled “to make it seem like a significant case” against the student.
Brumm says “I’ve disagreed with things Drew has done in the past. This isn’t about liking him or disliking him as a person and I am only commenting on the allegations in the report. But this report is insane.”
She then explains that this is a vendetta by the university against the student.
“It is leaps, bounds and miles beyond an average student misconduct allegation. This is a personal vendetta by UQ against one of their students,” she says.
Dr Feng Chongyi from the University of Technology in Sydney, also concluded that the University of Queensland is likely engaging in a vendetta against Pavlou.
“It is totally unacceptable for somebody to be [disciplined] over their [political] speech in Australia,” Feng said. “It is unacceptable that UQ has no hesitation in breaching someone’s human rights because of the benefits of their China deals.”
At time of publication, Pavlou had received over 13,000 signatures in an online petition to prevent the University of Queensland from expelling him.