Drew Pavlou expects the University of Queensland to expel him after he left a disciplinary hearing. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO

Education

Pavlou walks from UQ disciplinary hearing

2020-05-21 17:30:35

A student activist highly critical of the University of Queensland’s ties to Beijing says he expects to be expelled from the institution after walking out on a disciplinary hearing he labelled a “kangaroo court”. 

Drew Pavlou on Wednesday faced a hearing at the university over 11 allegations of misconduct, detailed in a confidential 186-page document, reportedly linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticising the Chinese Communist Party.

But the 20-year-old philosophy student left the meeting with his lawyer, Tony Morris QC, after about one hour, citing procedural unfairness.

“We thought the hearing was stacked against us and I won’t respect their kangaroo court ,” Mr Pavlou told AAP on Wednesday. 

“So we walked out and we’re now preparing for them to expel me and we’re preparing to go to the Supreme Court of Queensland.”

After leaving the hearing, Mr Pavlou said in a statement university administration had “learnt well from their masters in Beijing”. 

The University of Queensland Senate member also told AAP his expulsion would hinder the ability of Australian students to criticise either univeristy administrations or the Chinese government. 

Mr Pavlou, who was involved in a scuffle with Chinese international students on campus in July 2019, also said the situation had taken a personal toll but he “wouldn’t back down”. 

A university spokeswoman rejected claims the disciplinary hearing was a free speech issue and said the institution’s policies were “not driven by politics”.

“It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for the university to provide a safe environment for students and staff, both on campus and online, to protect their welfare and mental health,” she said in a statement.

“Part of this is ensuring complaints are fairly considered through a standard, confidential disciplinary process, which is being followed in this case.”

University of Sydney senior lecturer in modern Chinese history Dr David Brophy said while he found the tactics used by Mr Pavlou – whom he described as “provocative and polarising” – to be problematic, UQ should nevertheless drop its case against the student. 

“He’s been unnecessarily inflammatory towards students from mainland China who need to be engaged in respectful debate,” Dr Brophy said.

“But (human rights in China) is the stuff of political debate, not university tribunals.”

Senior lecturer in Chinese studies at Monash University, Dr Kevin Carrico, said Mr Pavlou had brought much-needed attention to pressing issues in the Australia-China relationship and that his activism had “clearly been an annoyance” to the University of Queensland. 

“It is extremely important that China’s arbitrary speech limits not be enforced in Australia, but this appears to be precisely what is happening,” he told AAP on Wednesday. 

The University of Queensland has faced media scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university

The institution is also home to one of Australia’s many Confucius Institutes – Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.