Drew Pavlou will face a disciplinary hearing later this month, accused of misconduct and prejudicing the reputation of the University of Queensland.
Drew Pavlou will face a disciplinary hearing later this month, accused of misconduct and prejudicing the reputation of the University of Queensland.

Student’s explosive anti-China post that sparked uni furore

A STUDENT activist who accused the Chinese government of giving the world coronavirus was hauled before the University of Queensland disciplinary board for "prejudicing its reputation''.

UQ philosophy student Drew Pavlou, who was assaulted during a Chinese student protest on campus last July, faces a UQ disciplinary board hearing on May 20 over 11 allegations of misconduct.

Mr Pavlou - who represents undergraduate students on the UQ Senate governing body - posted on Facebook on March 20: "F--- the Chinese government for giving us this pandemic.''

Drew Pavlou (centre) at a protest at St Lucia last year. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Drew Pavlou (centre) at a protest at St Lucia last year. Picture: Liam Kidston.

UQ alleges that the 20-year-old student visited the Vice-Chancellor's office, wearing what looked like an orange biosafety suit, and posting a COVID-19 quarantine note on the door in March.

He also posted a photo of himself, dressed in the suit, outside the office of the Confucius Institute at UQ.

"As a student representative, it's my job to keep students safe - that's why I've placed the UQ Confucius Institute under total and complete lockdown until biohazard risk contained!'' is the message on his Twitter feed, which is still online.

UQ hosts the Chinese Communist government-funded institute, whose website states that it promotes the learning of Chinese language and culture and "seeks to build and deepen links and collaborative opportunities with China in the fields of science, engineering and technology''.

In a 186-page confidential Disciplinary Board dossier, sent to Mr Pavlou on April 9, UQ claims that his online posts "harassed, bullied, threatened or abused'' Confucius Institute staff.

"It is further alleged that the messages and signs you posted prejudiced the reputation of the university, insofar as you publicly sought to suggest that the Chinese staff of the Confucius Institute were infected with the COVID-19 virus,'' it states.

UQ caused controversy after appointing China's Consul-General in Brisbane, Xu Jie, as an adjunct professor of language and ­culture last July.

RetiringUQ vice-chancellor Peter Hoj - who was paid $1.2 million salary last year- was a consultant from 2013 until 2018 to Chinese Ministry of Education affiliate Hanban, which administers the Confucius Institutes, and received its 2015 Outstanding Individual of the Year Award.

University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj. Picture: Nikki Short
University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj. Picture: Nikki Short

Chinese students are a vital revenue stream for UQ, which pocketed $570 million in tuition fees from 18,000 foreign students last year - half from China.

Professor Hoj warned staff last month that the university could lose nearly $500 million as a result of travel bans preventing foreign students from studying in Australia.

UQ reprimanded Mr Pavlou after he tweeted on November 13 about a Chinese Communist Party crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

He tweeted "as a Senator at the University of Queensland, I would like to express on behalf of the university our concern about the situation in Hong Kong and condemn the HK Police force for its actions on the CUHK campus on 12 November 2019 #FreeHongKong''.

The next day, UQ Academic Registrar Mark Erickson instructed Mr Pavlou to remove the post, as he would not start his term as senator until January 1 this year.

"UQ does not seek to prevent you from expressing your personal opinion,'' he wrote.

"However, the posts … contain misinterpretation. Also, the use of UQ branding … infers the University has authorised the posts.''

Another UQ complaint relates to COVID-19 complaints made by Mr Pavlou, on Facebook and in a media interview in March, before UQ closed its campus to students to protect them from coronavirus.

"As a student representative at UQ, I believe our campus is no longer safe to students due to the dire threat posed by COVID-19,'' he posted on Facebook on March 11.

"If the administration doesn't shut down campus to stop transmission of the coronavirus, it will simply show that they value human money over lives.''

Drew Pavlou says he believes he is being bullied because of his activism against China. Picture: Claudia Baxter/AAP
Drew Pavlou says he believes he is being bullied because of his activism against China. Picture: Claudia Baxter/AAP

In a disciplinary "allegation notice'' sent to Mr Pavlou on April 9, UQ alleges that Mr Pavlou "prejudiced the reputation of the university by indicating to the public that the university is an unsafe environment and that the university prioritises profit over the welfare of its staff and students''.

UQ closed its campus to students on March 16, after three students caught coronavirus.

The Courier-Mail asked UQ if it had received complaints about Mr Pavlou from the Chinese government, any Chinese official, the Chinese Consul-General in Brisbane or any members of the Confucius Institute.

In a statement, a UQ spokeswoman said that "university disciplinary processes are run as a confidential process to ensure fairness and integrity in the process and to protect all parties involved - including those who have made complaints and those who are the subject of complaints - and for this reason it would not be appropriate for the university to comment further''.

Mr Pavlou, who is seeking UQ approval to use top silk Tony Morris QC to defend him for free at the hearing, said he felt UQ was bullying him for his activism against Communist China.

Originally published as Student's explosive anti-China post that sparked UQ stoush


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