Queensland university students protest 'China-funded education'

More than 70 protesters attended a Chinese funding demonstration a Queensland university, held peacefully after violent clashes last week.

Students hold placards during a protest at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Students hold placards during a protest at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Source: AAP

International students held off attending a protest at a Queensland university against China-funded education worried they may be identified, an organiser says.

More than 70 protesters and dozens of police attended the demonstration at the University of Queensland in Brisbane on Wednesday - far fewer than the 500 expected.

The protest against agreements reportedly signed by Australian universities that back Beijing's authority over teaching at Chinese government-funded education centres went off without confrontation.

Protesters hold placards at the rally.
Protesters hold placards at the rally. Source: AAP

Last week, a protest at the St Lucia campus in support of democracy in Hong Kong, which turned violent after pro-Chinese demonstrators attended, gained international media coverage.

Demonstrators on Wednesday carried placards denouncing what they say is influence from the Chinese Communist Party through Australian university funding agreements with Hanban, which runs the Confucius Institute.

"Confucius Institute is code for propaganda centre" and "keep Xinnie the Pooh out of UQ", signs read.

Police at the protest.
Police at the protest. Source: AAP

Another demonstrator held a sign saying "you can't dox us all" in reference to student's reporting they received online abuse after last week's protest.

Student organiser Ji Davis, for Transparency 4 UQ, says about 70 people were involved in the protest but more than 500 registered their interest online.

He said many Chinese and Hong Kong students are afraid to take part in demonstrations because they one day wish to return to work in China.

"Some of my friends have said to me, 'I'm really supportive of your cause, but I'm afraid to even like the comments on (social media) posts just because I don't want to be put on a list'," Mr Davis told AAP.

Mr Davis said supporters instead stood back in the crowd which had gathered to watch the protest at a commemorative plaque for the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

It comes as a Hong Kong student says she wore a face mask at the protest because she feared being "disappeared" by authorities upon her return home.

Police say they were happy with the peaceful protest happening without any physical confrontations.

Following the clash last week, China's Consulate-General in Brisbane issued a statement praising "the spontaneous patriotic behaviour of Chinese students".

The contracts for the Confucius Institutes affect the University of Queensland, Griffith University, La Trobe University and Charles Darwin University.

Following the reports of the contracts, UQ said its contract with Hanban expired in April, and it is currently renegotiating terms in the latest agreement to ensure university autonomy "in connection with the Confucius Institute and all courses and projects it offers".

Griffith University, La Trobe and CDU say they are satisfied there is no interference or impact on their autonomy from Hanban at their campuses.

3 min read
Published 31 July 2019 at 4:18pm
Source: SBS