Human rights

Drew Pavlou + Hong Kong International Alliance ~ more than solidarity

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Due to Chinese Communist Party influences in our tertiary education system and the subsequent treatment of UQ student Drew Pavlou ,the "Freedom for Hong Kong", movement has become about more than solidarity, writes Michael Williams.

THEY CAME from the behind and from the right of him. A young man was seen prior on a walkie-talkie. This was a planned attack.

Drew Pavlou is a philosophy major — a superfluous young man. It's odd that his story has been so welcomed on various rightwing publications when he is unmistakably Left, maybe even far Left.

On his Facebook page, he displayed/the anarchist "A".

There he shows solidarity not just with Hong Kong, but with West Papua, The Kurds, East Turkestan and the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Many of these right-wing gremlins would soon show their true colours and withdraw their support when Drew chose to stand with Minneapolis.

He first found fame/infamy standing up for Hong Kong students at the UQ (University of Queensland), last July. He organised a rally on the Great Court to protest against Chinese Government's influence in the UQ administration. The rally turned violent when pro-Chinese students tried to derail the event.

To counter protest, they sang the Chinese national anthem. That sunny afternoon, Drew went home with a black eye.

“… July last year, I worked with the Hong Kong students on campus to organise a rally against the University’s involvement with China, while the Chinese Government were persecuting people in Hong Kong,” said Drew Pavlou in an interview with Independent Australia.

“I wasn’t prepared for activism in the public spotlight. I had never really organised a protest before. I wasn’t prepared for the response. Being assaulted on campus… Death threats… UQ trying to shut down my free speech instead of protecting me.”

Once the bedrock for student activism, UQ has backflipped on its reputation and suspended Drew, a protester, for two years. They have not ruled out further discipline or complete expulsion.

The final summary had 11 counts of misconduct, many of which were unfair or outright nonsense. A later removed one allegation that pinned Mr Pavlou for briefly using a pen when inside the campus stationery store and then leaving without buying it. Pure bureaucratic absurdity.

“They made the decision to expel me first then started the investigation… They wanted to include everything under the sun… To throw the book at me… So [that] I wouldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

There are, seemingly, two major reasons the University are pursuing Mr Pavlou with such fervour:

  1. Drew is, as journalist Matthew Condon describes, 'a nest kicker ' his tactics have frustrated conservative types. (To be fair, even those amongst his own cohort, when interviewed, shared their own grievances in regards to his behaviour.) These tactics include taking a "photo op" out the front of the Confucian Institute while dressed in a HAZMAT suit. A reference to the allegedly Chinese originated coronavirus outbreak.
  2. Drew and his affiliated Hong Kong International Alliance (HKIA) have smeared the University's relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — a relationship that the University are financially weaned to. Even former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described this relationship as the University having "[bent] the knee”.

UQ has four Chinese funded Confucian Institute courses, which the ABC has coined “soft power centres”.

Drew has faced assault, death threats and now suspension for standing up.

But it's is bigger than just him.

HKIA is a student-run organisation that aims to keep an eye on human rights issues worldwide, but mainly focuses on Hong Kong.

An unnamed member had this to say:

Free Hong Kong means a lot more than a catchy slogan. It means liberating Hong Kong people and the place itself from the CCP’s control. Obviously, under "one country, two systems", as stated and promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed back in 1984, the Chinese Government has absolutely no authorised right to intervene with Hong Kong’s domestic political affairs — not to mention the rule of law.


Unfortunately, in these ten years, the CCP has been progressively intervening with Hong Kong’s political system, violating the "one country, two systems" principle. Starting from introducing the operation of the Legislative Council to preventing us from enjoying universal suffrage since years ago. As well as the introduction of police brutality (abuse of power) with no credible follow-up investigations and fair punishment since last year. Eventually, the recent implementation of national security law, the death of HKSAR and ‘one country, two systems’ is certified.


We, the HongKongers – who embrace and are desperate for freedom and human rights – would therefore like to get rid of the control from the Authoritarian Government. Democracy is what we need. Freedom is what we need. Secured, human rights are what we need. Despite not being a perfect interpretation, this is what we mean by ‘Free Hong Kong!'

HKIA will not give up on a free Hong Kong. There's a look in their eyes.

Personally, though not having the experience of harassment, I am highly pissed off at UQ for its lack of care and protection to its harassed students. Not only were the abusers not charged, but there has also been no follow-up investigation done by UQ since then. Ironically, Drew has been suspended by UQ, recently, solely due to his political stance and solidarity with HongKongers. This makes me highly doubt whether UQ is treating education as a business only — earning dirty money from the collaboration with the CCP, instead of academia.

“We live in a world where there are serious injustices everywhere, and we are the ones who have to deal with it,” says Drew Pavlou.

It’s [the University's apparent philosophy on education] a very shallow understanding of what it means to be a human being. If university is just about getting a job... Some things should come before money."

“I don’t think you can be an ethical person, know about these things and look the other way… The University [might justify] their actions by saying, we know these things are happening, but we have to work with this country for financial reasons and I don’t believe that’s true.”

Finally, when pressed on the story of Drew, the HKIA interviewee said this:

Regarding the actions of Drew, he is a legit hero in our eyes.


His brave and charismatic activism has sort of brought our issue under spotlight in Brisbane. His vocal activism has made us feel like we are not alone. I’ll describe what he has done for us as altruism —out of empathy and humanity.


If I were him, facing the risk of expulsion from 'uni', together with all those death threats to me and my family — there must be a high degree of hesitation for me to stand in front of everyone and criticise the CCP. I guess that is why our world is improving at such a slow pace. More people are frightened when facing suppression than those who have the courage to fight back. Empowered by the fear/hold onto what we believe is right.


We need more people like Drew Pavlou in this world.

Drew Pavlou continues to fight for his academic career and against Chinese influences in Australia, you can follow his Twitter here.

Hong Kong International Alliance is a student activist organisation and solidarity group for all oppressed peoples. You can follow their twitter here.

For more coverage, you can follow associate editor Michael Williams on Twitter and Instagram, both @editorscribble.

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