Skip to content

Censorship and Surveillance at Australian Universities

Recently a number of controversial incidents involving restriction on freedom of speech have been reported on Australian university campuses. Scholars have criticized Australian universities for catering to Beijing and for suppressing academic freedom and freedom of speech. The Australian reported on August 7 that the Australian Federal Minister of Education Dan Tehan will launch an investigation into the university’s speech and academic freedom environment.

Below is a list of some recent incidents:
1. On July 31, the University of New South Wales twitter account shared a link to an article that expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Hong Kong. A few hours later, this post was deleted due to pressure from Chinese students. The incident was exposed and drew considerable criticism. On August 5, the President of the University admitted that deleting the tweet was a mistake and that, “There is no excuse for mistakes. … We clearly reaffirm our previous commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom.” However in a separate university statement published in Chinese, the wording was different. The Chinese statement read, “Due to the misleading content, the school has deleted this tweet. We are deeply disturbed by the trouble this incident has caused to you. Thank you all for your understanding.”

The University of New South Wales has 16,000 foreign students from China. They account for 25 percent of the total students; 68.8 percent of foreign students; and they contribute 22 percent of the university’s income. The University of New South Wales is reported to have launched a “Torch Innovation Precinct” project with China which includes a training program for PLA scientists.

2. On August 5, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a professor from the School of Engineering at Charles Darwin University used the wording “Chinese Wuhan COVID-19 virus outbreak” in an assignment. It caused dissatisfaction among many Chinese students. After the Chinese students filed complaints, the school apologized and the professor changed the wording of the homework.

3. A Chinese student studying in Melbourne and her family members in China were harassed and the officers from State Security in China warned them against the student’s organizing events on campus and being outspoken about her position on Hong Kong and COVID 19.

4. Another Chinese student, Kevin, who did not want his real name to be used due to security reasons is currently studying for a graduate degree at the University of Sydney. He said that there are roughly three types of surveillance on campus: one is the embassy’s direct surveillance; the second is from fellow students; the third is from the local Chinese media because the CCP has infiltrated them. The media employees would take photos, conduct online searches, and indirectly assist the CCP in conducting overseas surveillance. Kevin said he felt afraid because he has to deal with this kind threat overseas.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 7, 2020