Chinese students in Australia are being terrorised into silence and claim their families will be targeted if they speak out against the communist government.
The Chinese government has even created a new online portal for students to report their peers to police for ‘political crimes’.
The portals are accessible in Australia and leave young Chinese nationals terrified they will be accused of expressing pro-democracy sentiments – a crime under the communist laws.
According to Australian Human Rights director Elaine Peason, a 23-year-old UNSW law student from China said relentless threats left students terrified.
The student said: ‘If you protest against the CCP abroad, they will find people you love and hurt you to make you pay,’ reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
Kevin Carrico, a senior lecturer at Monash University, told the publication he taught Chinese students who suffered extreme intimidation following class presentations that weren’t completely aligned with pro-China propaganda.
‘I have had students who have had their families pressured simply because they did a presentation on the situation in Tibet or they discussed the historical events of 1989,’ he said.
He added that the pressure piled on is ‘considerably more intimidating than anything your average student faces’.
The Melbourne-based lecturer also explained that while the opinions of Chinese students differ wildly, many are uncomfortable talking about it because of ongoing threats from their homeland.
The portals were sparked by a controversial article posted on the University of New South Wales website and social media pages over the weekend that raised concerns about the erosion of human rights in China, authored by Elaine Pearson.
The first tweet from the university directly quoted Ms Pearson’s article, saying: ‘Now is a pivotal moment to bring attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Hong Kong’.
People in Hong Kong have seen their human rights eradicated in a matter of weeks as Beijing brought in sweeping new national security laws that essentially block any form of dissent against the government.
Hong Kong had previously operated under the ‘one nation, two systems’ model that allowed the state to have a different political and legal system to mainland China following the handover from the UK in 1997.
Both social media posts were deleted on Saturday following masses of complaints from pro-communist Chinese students.
The article was also temporarily removed from the website before reappearing in the business and law section labelled as ‘opinion’.
Several federal MPs slammed the university’s actions as ‘censorship’ and accused the institution of bowing to Chinese pressure.
An editorial in the Global Times, a mouthpiece for the communist government, demanded an apology from the university – even after the posts were removed.
‘Students who are still outraged have said the university’s behaviour brings ”shame to Chinese students”,’ the article said.
Liberal senator James Paterson accused the university of valuing revenue from Chinese students over academic freedom
Ms Pearson said the move to take down the social media posts was worrying, and showed UNSW was bowing to censorship.
‘Clearly those pro-CCP supporters feel they can bully the university into censoring certain views,’ she told The Australian.
‘I think the university needs to make it very clear that is absolutely not negotiable and that academic freedom is very important to Australian universities.’
She said there was a lot of concern at Australian universities about academic freedom, and ‘particularly around Chinese government threats to that’.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson said the university was showing ‘cowardice’, while Labor senator Tony Sheldon said the move was censorship and there was a ‘big problem’
The university later posted another tweet which said: ‘Opinions expressed by our academics do not always represent the views of UNSW.
‘We have a long and valued relationship with Greater China going back 60 years.’
Both posts were later removed.
A UNSW spokeswoman said the posts were removed because they were ‘not in line with our policies’.
She said the views of an academic were being misconstrued as representing the university.
‘UNSW protects academic freedom and freedom of speech, respecting the right of academics and others to express their views within the law.’