University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou was successful in obtaining subpoenas for information against Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) Consul General for Brisbane and others on 22 November. He was also given a date for a hearing next year.
The Consul General did not attend the hearing at the Brisbane Magistrates Court.The subpoena is one of seven that the magistrate called to be issued last Friday. Two were issued to Dr Xu Jie in his capacity as PRC Consul General for Brisbane and as adjunct professor of the UQ’s Confucius Institute.
The remainder of the subpoenas were issued to the Queensland Police, UQ itself, as well as to the students’ union and the Chinese Student and Scholar’s Association.They subpoenas require those named to provide communications to Mr Pavlou relating to events during and following a protest meeting at the University of Queensland on 24 July. Those served must comply by 6 December.
A Magistrate’s Court hearing will be then be held on 24 April, next year.
Mr Pavlou, who is in his third year of his studies in Philosophy, Literature and History, had been specifically accused by Chinese media of being one of the organisers of a demonstration held in favour of the Hong-Kong student protesters at the University of Queensland campus on 24 July.
The demonstration turned nasty when pro PRC supporters turned up and altercation followed. Queensland Police were called in to restore order. Mr Pavlou said he was twice assaulted during the rally.
On the following day, the PRC Consul General for Brisbane, Dr Xu Jie issued a statement on the consular website in which he characterised the pro-Hong Kong protest as being the work of “a small number of people with ulterior motives (who) carried out anti-China activities at the University of Queensland in Australia, causing indignation and protests from overseas Chinese students of the mainland and Hong Kong.”
The statement went on to say:”the Consulate General regards highly the importance of the safety of overseas Chinese students and affirms the self-motivated patriotic behaviour of the overseas Chinese students. The Consulate-General resolutely opposes to any conduct by words or behaviour to split the country … and to incite anti-China behaviour.”
The overseas Chinese newspaper, The Global Times, praised the stance of the pro-China students at UQ and specifically identified Mr Pavlou as having organised the protest and speeches on the day.
What followed, said Mr Pavlou, was a large number of social media threats of violence against himself and his family.
In taking the Chinese Consul General to court, Mr Pavlou was seeking a retraction and an apology.
Of the court appearance last Friday, Mr Pavlou said it had gone well and that there was a date for a hearing.
He said that he had not been on the UQ campus recently and that the situation was affecting his studies.
“It is hard to sit down to write an essay with all this going on in my head.”
He said that recently someone had left a letter at his family home which stated that “China had a cancer that had to be killed.”
“I want to stop but it is not right that this is going on in Australia where they are are trying to silence someone through fear. Without free speech, there is no democracy. If I can’t speak out in Australia about what is going on in China, where can I speak out?”
Mr Pavlou said that he was not opposed to China or its people but to the policies of its government.
Mr Pavlou’s lawyer, Mark Tarrant, said that Mr Pavlou was being subjected to pressure within the campus and that his only protection was through open court.
He said Mr Pavlou was not being protected by either university or police authorities.
“The only defence is open court. Nothing is filtered in court. The police were reluctant to proceed until I pushed them,” said Mr Tarrant.
“The West’s democratic system of government has its roots in ancient Greece – ‘demos’ ‘the people’ and ‘kratia’ ‘power, rule’.
“Drew, an Australian of Greek heritage, is simply expressing his solidarity and support for democracy in Hong Kong. Democracy is anathema to the Communist Party of China (CCP),” said Mr Tarrant.
“The CCP’s hatred of the West’s democratic values has now been imported onto Australian campuses and our young intellectuals, such as Drew are its target,” said Mr Tarrant.
A University of Queensland spokesman said the university was considering the subpoenas received but added that answers to questions were to be found on its UQ Responds website.
Efforts to contact the PRC Consulate General of Brisbane proved fruitless.
A list of questions on the matter was sent to Queensland Police. At the time of writing Neos Kosmos received no response to its questions.