When Ghandi was asked what he thought of western civilisation he said that he thought it was a good idea.
There are some worrying trends coming out of this week’s protest at University of Queensland about former British colony, Hong Kong. During democratic rights rallies in the 1970s & 80s in Queensland, police photographers were always present to shoot photos of street marchers and picketers. As a result nearly everyone involved in political protests in Brisbane during that time has an ASIO file.
But some might say (even jokingly) that having an ASIO file is small beer in comparison to having a Chinese MSS* file. But that appears to be what is happening to democratic rights protestors this week. See the message below from one of the students and another from participants in last week’s events at UQ – some of whom are receiving death threats on social media. If true, these statements are in opposition to the ethos built up in that space over 50 years of activism against war, racism, sexism, opposition to LGBT rights, corporations and the state.
Solidarity, not Nationalism
Statement against the July 31 anti-Chinese protest at UQ
1. We are proud to stand in solidarity with oppressed people fighting back anywhere in the world. We unreservedly support Hong Kong students at the University of Queensland organising in support of democratic rights. We stand with Uyghur students and condemn the concentration camps established by the authoritarian Chinese state.
2. The protest “Transparency 4 UQ: peaceful protest against Confucius Institute” scheduled for July 31 is not led, endorsed or initiated by oppressed people fighting against their own government. Rather it has been initiated by domestic students who are pursuing their own agenda, which is about combating “Chinese influence at UQ” as a supposed threat to Australian values and academic integrity.
3. This protest is not a solidarity action with Hong Kong or Uyghur students. We consider it irresponsible for domestic students who are not from a group oppressed by the Chinese government to initiate conflict around these questions. Domestic students will not face any repercussions from the Chinese or Australian state; more vulnerable international students will, and so they must consent to undertaking the risk. That is why we support following the political leadership of students from these communities.
4. We are concerned that this demonstration will further entrench nationalist divisions both amongst Australian and Chinese students. We oppose all forms of racial discrimination and are horrified by the anti-Chinese racism that has manifested online following the events of July 24. For example, students have evoked 19th Century anti-Chinese goldfield riots as an appropriate way to respond and blamed ordinary Chinese students for crimes of the Chinese government. This does not further any progressive cause and instead undermines the ability for students to come together in solidarity.
5. We oppose all corporate or governmental interference to the academic integrity of the University of Queensland, and have long advocated for well-funded, independent, and tuition-free universities. However, we believe the campaigns around Australia led by domestic students not from oppressed backgrounds against the Confucius Institutes are hyperbolic, racist beat-ups, sowing fear and suspicion towards ordinary Chinese students and workers. Australian students are not ‘under threat’ from Chinese influence; rather, the forces undermining academic integrity and living standards of Australian students are the Australian government and local university administration.
6. We hold the view that it is necessary to encourage solidarity between domestic students and international students from both mainland China and Hong Kong. However, the July 31 protest as it stands will further alienate, divide, and polarize these groups, making solidarity between them impossible.
7. On this basis, we call for the July 31 demonstration to be cancelled. It has hijacked what could have been an expression of solidarity into a nationalistic, and therefore racist, demonstration against Chinese students at UQ which will have ramifications beyond the campus. If it proceeds, we call for students to consider the arguments we have made and not attend.
8. As always we will continue to stand in solidarity with Hong Kong and Uyghur students and support any future campus or Brisbane-based actions they may organise for democratic, political and human rights.
9. We encourage any supporters of this sentiment at UQ or in the broader community to publicize this statement. Please contact 0430 483 626 to add the name of yourself or organisation as a signatory.
Socialist Alternative UQ
Lam Chi Leung, Left 21, Hong Kong
The long march**
The University of Qld Union complex is a democratic space. It was not built by the University using overseas students as a cash cow, it was built by students using student union fees. The corporate University pays homage to weapons manufacturers, DuPont, Boeing, Dow Chemicals, and western civilisation in the Ramsay Centre.
In contrast, the forum area at UQU is a space for real political discussion and inquiry.
No group or collective can claim the forum area exclusively as their own because it was built to provide a refuge against tyranny of sect, it is an open place.
This is why the corporate university wishes to demolish it and, with it, democratic student unionism. They re-imagine the space as a shopping mall, a gateway to elite jobs on the back of exploitation of worker and student alike.
30 July 2019
*The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is the intelligence and security agency of the People’s Republic of China.
**The Long March (through the institutions), said Dutschke had intended that we should “… go in, behave – and take over” … but we say we should remember why change was necessary to begin with, it arose out of the exploitation of others, in school, in work and in society. – from Max Bruinsma.
The Long March (October 1934 – October 1935) was a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People’s Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) army.