Chinese envoy flays pro-HK demos, Aussie lawmakers concerned about Beijing influence

Local | 19 Aug 2019 5:46 pm

Multiple lawmakers in Australia have voiced concerns about the amount of influence the Chinese government holds at Australian universities.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on Friday and Saturday in support of those protesting in Hong Kong.

Things took a nasty turn when pro-democracy and pro-China groups clashed on Friday, with video’s emerging showing Chinese screaming expletive-laden chants.

In the wake of the clashes Liberal backbenchers Amanda Stoker, Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma and James Paterson warned Australian universities must work to protect free speech during these clashes.

Senator Stoker said the free speech of students to have views that don’t align with the Chinese Communist Party must be looked after.

“[There is a] reluctance in their administrations to defend the rights of non-CCP aligned students who dare to speak out against Beijing; it is legitimate to ask questions about how China came to have so much influence in these institutions,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported her saying.

Labor has also asked the Morrison government to give federal parliamentarians access to briefings on Australia’s relationship with China, to help drive a “more informed” debate on the topic.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says she will write to Foreign Minister Marise Payne formally making the request.

Briefings from both the department of foreign affairs and the office of national intelligence should be shared with politicians, Labor believes.

“We are at a point where the relationship is more complex, also more consequential,” Senator Wong told ABC’s Insiders yesterday.

“We should have a much more sensible and mature discussion about how we make it work for us … we should have a more informed debate.”

China has sent a stern warning to protesters who marched through the streets of Sydney and Melbourne yesterday in support of those protesting in Hong Kong.

There were clashes as both pro-democracy and pro-China groups flooded the streets yesterday, with more protests planned for today.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, issued a statement yesterday warning foreign governments not to interfere with the situation or support the Hong Kong protesters, urging those protesting in Australia to “see the real picture”.

“We sincerely hope that people from all walks of life in Australia will see the real picture of situation in Hong Kong, act in the interests of Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and rule of law,” Jingye said. “Any attempt to mess up Hong Kong is doomed to fail.”

He also branded the actions of the Hong Kong protesters as “radical, violent and illegal.''

“Their behaviors have grossly trampled on the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong, seriously threatened the local residents’ life and safety, severely jeopardized Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” he said. No responsible government would sit idly by.”

Despite the warning, more pro-democracy protests were held, with about 100 pro-democracy activists gathering again in Adelaide.

In Rundle Mall, their “free Hong Kong” chants were met with a handful of vocal pro-China supporters, who say people from Hong Kong are acting like “terrorists”.

One pro-China supporter, who chose to remain anonymous, said the pro-democracy group have the wrong idea of freedom. “They act like terrorists,” he said yesterday afternoon. “It’s not about freedom, it’s about ‘China is China’. China is one nation, that’s it.”

On the other side, 19-year-old student Kelvin Chan was handing out surgical masks as a symbol of “white terror” — the suppression of political ideas.

He said despite being in Australia, protesters can still help their “brothers and sisters” in Hong Kong.

“It’s a wake-up call to all around the world.” “The brutality of police cannot be tolerated by civilized countries … you can’t shoot tear gas indoors and rubber bullets,” Mr Chan said.

Several hundred also people gathered at Sydney’s Belmore Park for a protest that ended peacefully.

A poster advertising the event tells attendees to “be friendly, be peaceful, be police, be safe, be united, sympathise”.

This advice comes after disturbing footage from Friday showed pro-Hong Kong protesters taunted with expletive-laden chants from pro-Chinese activists before scuffles broke out in Melbourne and Adelaide.

A video posted to social media shows Chinese students at a protest at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, chanting “Cao ni ma bi” or “F*** your mother’s c***” to Hong Kong protesters.

In Melbourne, footage from Friday night shows pro-Chinese activists chanting “Jiao baba” — which roughly translates to “call us dad”.

Other videos from Friday night show up to 1000 rival activists jostling as tempers flared at the demonstration in Melbourne — which began at 7pm outside the State Library in Swanston Street.

The two groups faced off and exchanged heated words before police formed a line separating the groups. Among the chaos, an ABC cameraman was shoved by a man who then appeared to attack his gear.-Photos: AAP




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