The fact that Australia is no longer willing to entertain even an ounce of interference from China is an open book and it is willing to go to any lengths to make sure that the influence of Chinese Communist Party members and sympathizers are dealt with. According to a new investigation, Chinese pro-democracy students in Australia face intimidation and fear of repercussions if they speak out on controversial matters vis a vis China and its Chinese Communist Party. Human Rights Watch discovered that such pupils in Australia felt watched, forcing them to self-censor in class.
While the Chinese embassy in Canberra strongly rejected the report on Wednesday, calling it “biased” and said that the Human Rights Watch had “decayed into a political tool for the West” and the group was “always biased on China”, the Australian government said it found the report “deeply concerning”. Following a worsening in relations between the two countries, there has been increased worry over China’s influence on local campuses in recent years. Canberra is already looking into allegations of foreign meddling.
Canberra realises that the more opportunity it will provide the pro-democracy Chinese students to express themselves and write what they feel like, the more realities of mainland China will reach the world and the freedom of speech as an idea will reach the mainland too. And to see this succeed, the Morrison government has decided to protect these students as the Universities and concerned authorities have come up with the idea to allow students to submit written assignments under pseudonyms.
The Morrision government has been continuously taking steps to make sure that the influence of Chinese Communist Party and their ability to play with the sovereignty of Australia is done away with. Earlier, the Scott Morrison government had officially initiated a review of the Northern Territory’s 99-year-lease of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese-owned company Landbridge, signalling that the days of CCP doing what it wanted were over. As the government is in action mode in all spheres, how can they let the academia be intimidated by the CCP? The reports regarding the pro-democracy Chinese students self censoring themselves because of being intimidated by the CCP has brought concerns to the Australian government.
Due to increased worries about foreign government (China)-linked harassment over politically sensitive themes, Australian universities may allow students to submit written assignments under pseudonyms and in physical copy. According to The Guardian, university administrators are contemplating a variety of methods to defend academic freedom, including making it a disciplinary offence for students to record specific classes or share them with outside groups.
Earlier, at the G7 summit held in Cornwall – Britain, Australia exposed Chinese barbarity and belligerence at a level not done by any country ever before. Leading the anti-China crusade at G7 was Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who produced crucial documents before the heads of some of the richest and most powerful democracies in the world. The G7 leaders – comprising the heads of states from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Germany and Italy are said to have been “shocked and appalled” by the revelations made by Australian Prime Minister Morrison. As a consequence, the G7 communique after the summit was aimed squarely against China and its totalitarianism.
On June 13, during a session dubbed ‘Open Societies’, Morrison tabled a dossier that Chinese diplomats had handed to Nine News reporter Jonathan Kearsley at a meeting inside Canberra’s Hyatt Hotel last November. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the document listed 14 grievances Beijing had with Australia, including restrictions on foreign investment decisions based on national security grounds, government funding for think tanks critical of China, and unfriendly reporting by Australian media.
Australia’s higher education system is primarily reliant on fee-paying Chinese students, who accounted for almost 40% of all overseas students in the country prior to Covid. Approximately 160,000 Chinese students are now enrolled in Australian universities. The chief executive of Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson, confirmed universities were considering best-practice examples from overseas, including at Oxford in the UK and Princeton in the US.
“At Princeton University, Chinese students use code instead of names on their work to protect their identity,” Jackson said. “At Oxford University, students specialising in the study of China are asked to submit papers anonymously. Harvard Business School allows students to excuse themselves from discussing politically sensitive topics if they feel they are concerned about the risks.” Jackson said universities were “utterly committed to academic freedom, both in the classroom and more broadly on campus”, and urged students to report any issues.
Researchers stated they had documented three incidents in which a student’s behaviour in Australia caused authorities in China to visit or contact their families in China about their acts. In one example, Chinese officials threatened a student with imprisonment after they started a Twitter account in Australia and began posting pro-democracy sentiments.
Given such circumstances, and the situation of the Pro-Democracy Chinese students, these measures can be of extreme help going ahead, and also can help in the removal of the grip of Chinese Communist Party on the intelligentsia.