United Kingdom

Student activist Drew Pavlou suspended from UQ is attacked by Chinese state media

A student activist who was suspended from the University of Queensland for two years after criticising its links to China has been attacked by Chinese state media.

Drew Pavlou was banned from completing his philosophy degree until at 2022 on Friday after the university accused him of 11 cases of misconduct, which were detailed in a confidential 186-page document.

The Chinese Communist Party-controlled tabloid Global Times on Sunday rubbed salt in the wound, citing anonymous students celebrating the suspension.

Drew Pavlou was banned from completing his politics degree until at 2022 on Friday after the university accused him of 11 cases of misconduct. Pictured during a rally

Pavlou (pictured with a friend) said he would continue to advocate for justice and equal human rights

The article labelled Pavlou an 'anti-Chinese rioter' while saying his peers were celebrating that 'justice finally came'.

Four anonymous Chinese and Australian students were quoted in the piece accusing him of inciting violence and racism while smearing Chinese students.

In response Pavlou claimed Chinese state media had directed UQ to expel him, and said the university was dependent on income from Chinese students and donors. 

'Chinese state media have just decided to go full mask off, endorsing my expulsion from UQ,' he wrote on Twitter. 

'UQ relies on the Chinese market for 20 per cent of its income. Moral courage!'

A statement from University of Queensland confirmed fees from Chinese students make up about 20 per cent of revenue.

Drew Pavlou (pictured) is a passionate activist for Taiwan and Hong Kong independence, as well as an anti-poverty campaigner

The campus has the fifth highest international student fee income in Australia, and about 18,000 of the 53,000 students enrolled are from overseas.

9,000 of those students are from China. 

In 2018, international students contributed $570million in tuition fees, and the state of Queensland generates about $1million each year per three international students.

A statement released by UQ explained it usually does not comment on individual disciplinary matters for confidentiality purposes.

But it did state that it 'rejected recent unsubstantiated accusations about any political motivations' and revealed Pavlou had been previously warned that he 'does not have the authority to speak on behalf of the University.'

Pictured: 20-year-old student activist Drew Pavlou at a protest prior to his suspension

'The University has directed Mr Pavlou to cease purporting to make statements on behalf of the University,' the statement read.  

As justification for his suspension the university claimed Mr Pavlou breached integrity and harassment policies, though Chancellor Peter Varghese conceded aspects of the ruling 'concerned' him.

'There are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me,' Mr Varghese said in a statement on Friday night.

Mr Pavlou is appealing the ruling and will be able to continue his studies until a verdict is drawn.

He is due to complete his degree in six months, meaning he may graduate before his suspension begins.

The politics student believes his university caved to pressure from Chinese influence to suspend him.

He led a series of campus demonstrations last year, in support of Hong-Kong's pro-democracy movement.

The activist also posted messages to social media criticising China's authoritarian regime and denounced the university's close financial ties with the Communist Party.  

Pavlou (pictured with a friend) is appealing the ruling and will be able to continue his studies until a verdict is drawn

The University of Queensland has faced intense scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university.

It is also home to one of Australia's many Confucius Institutes - Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.

The Chinese consul general in Brisbane, Xu Jie, even serves as an honorary professor at the university.

Mr Pavlou led a series of campus demonstrations last year, in support of Hong-Kong's pro-democracy movement.

He also posted messages to social media criticising China's authoritarian regime and denounced the university's close financial ties with the Communist Party.

Chinese consul general in Brisbane Xu Jie (pictured, left) serves as an honorary professor at the University of Queensland

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