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Hong Kong – the long march

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.

facial recognition

tweet from UQ student

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.

 

HK forum at UQ 31 July 2019

Transparency 4 UQ: peaceful protest against Confucius Institute on 31 July 2019

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.

SIGNED
UQ Greens

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.

Ian Curr
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.

5 responses to “Hong Kong – the long march

  1. Hong Kong In the Crosshairs of Global Power and Ideological Struggles

    What about the exploitation of workers in both HK and mainland China? Is it any different in either place? Chinese goods in Australia are cheap because they exploit workers in both systems – capitalism.

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  2. For those a little skeptical of the background to the current massive protests (the latest color revolution – “black”) in Hong Kong (against a police force trained and prepared by 100 years of British colonialism!), see the links below on the CIA financed US organisation “National Endowment for Democracy” and its role in supporting these protests

    https://www.ned.org/region/asia/hong-kong-china-2018/
    https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/voa-exclusive-us-democracy-group-rebuts-hong-kong-meddling-allegations

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-national-endowment-for-political-meddling-democracy-ned/

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    • Something rotten ...

      Not sure exactly what ‘sceptical‘ means here (I read the links)? Not everything can be labelled a ‘CIA plot‘ or the act of ‘hyena lackeys and their capitalist running dogs‘.
      .
      Equally those who point the finger at Stalinism and Maoism could well consider the bankruptcy of liberalism, religions, as well as the CIA, the neo-cons, and British colonialism to define a way forward for this long march.

      However with one quarter of the population (2 million people) on the streets in Hong Kong, we can be sure of 3 things (at least:

      1) there is something ‘rotten in the state of Hong Kong‘; and .
      2) there are many different ideologies involved in the struggle.
      3) Pro-democracy protests do not mean there will be a shift of wealth away from the ruling class.

      Meanwhile the Central Chinese government is up to its neck in genocide of the Uighurs in internment camps in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) . You don’t have to be a Tibetan monk to be upset with the accretion of wealth in the hands of the CCP on the mainland. Nor do the people who argue for a Free Tibet necessarily be in support the Dalai Lama.

      Ian

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  3. Storm in a tea cup at UQ?

    We cannot be seen’: the fallout from the University of Queensland’s Hong Kong protests

    Fallout from the protests highlights China’s reach into foreign universities through cultural programs
    “I’m not wearing this to make a political statement, I want to show my face,” says a masked man, from Hong Kong, now standing beneath the sandstone of the University of Queensland’s great court.

    “But even in Australia now we cannot be seen here at a protest. We are not out of sight of China’s government. They have made that clear.”

    Last week, the Brisbane campus of the 110-year-old university became a flashpoint for the ongoing international backlash against the Chinese state, its influence on Hong Kong and its mass detention of its Muslim Uighur population.

    A protest last Wednesday, organised by Hong Kong international students against the controversial extradition law, turned violent. Pro-Chinese government students interrupted the sit-in, tearing down banners, punching and shoving.

    But it’s the fallout from that protest, the quiet intimidation that followed – death threats, surveillance – that has many Hong Kong students, particularly those with family connections to mainland China, scared to show their faces.

    Attendees, who believe they were identified by videos of the protest, were subsequently targeted online in doxxing attacks; in one case a Hong Kong student had his driver’s licence, marriage certificate, student ID and other identifying information published on Chinese social media site Weibo.

    On Wednesday this week, a second protest was held. Smaller, more focused on the university’s links to China, and organised by Australian students, there was an undercurrent of fear among those who – unlike their domestic counterparts – were most vulnerable to the state’s capacity for retaliation.
    Hong Kong civil servants protest in defiance of loyalty order

    A masked woman, who did not give her name, addressed the crowd. She said she was from Hong Kong and feared for the safety of her family.

    “All in all, we are just protesters forced by an authoritarian government to protect ourselves,” she said, her voice trembling and then booming into the microphone.

    “Some protestors whose identities are disclosed will be stopped by police at the Hong Kong airport. So why am I now hiding my identity? Because I don’t want to be disappeared after showing up on this stage.”

    Why UQ?
    As the situation in Hong Kong becomes more fraught, unrest continues and fears grow that the Chinese military might intervene, the sprawling riverfront campus of the University of Queensland is an unlikely focal point for questions about China’s actions and its influence. But the punches thrown last Wednesday have placed the university, and its links to China, in the spotlight.

    Last Friday, the South China Morning Post revealed that the Brisbane Chinese consul-general, Xu Jie, who had praised the “patriotic behaviour” of the violent counter-protest, had been made an adjunct professor of language and culture by the university on 15 July.

    The debate over foreign influence at universities is not new, and not limited to China. It has been previously reported that some Chinese international students studying in Australia are monitored by the state and punished back home.

    Recently, the focus has turned to the presence of Confucius Institutes, government-sponsored organisations that are hosted by universities and promote Chinese culture and teach Mandarin. A recent legislative change means universities with the centres must now register them as potential sources of foreign influence.

    This also affects groups such as the United States Studies Centre, at the University of Sydney, which is part-funded by a US-based group that aims to strengthen the Australia-US relationship.

    Ji Davis, one of the organisers of the most recent protest, told Guardian Australia that UQ had become the focal point because of links between the vice-chancellor, Peter Høj, and Hanban – part of China’s education ministry that oversees Confucius Institutes globally. In 2015, Høj was named Hanban’s “outstanding individual of the year”.

    Davis said he believed the university’s agreement with Hanban is more restrictive than at other institutions and influences what is being taught. In July, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that UQ was one of only four universities whose Confucius Institute contract had a clause that allowed headquarters to assess the teaching quality of the Australian branches.

    A spokeswoman for UQ told the SMH the contract had already expired in April and they were negotiating a new version. “The draft specifies that the agreement does not limit UQ’s autonomy in any way,” she said.

    The union representing the university’s teachers, the National Tertiary Education Union, says it is all external influence – not just foreign, and not just China – that is the issue.

    “What is critical is that this is not used as a China-bashing exercise,” says Michael McNally, the NTEU Queensland division secretary.

    “The [second] rally at UQ, which was very poorly attended, questioning the Confucius Institutes and Chinese influence in Australian universities, seems to focus on one aspect of influence in Australian universities, ignoring all the other corporate or international interests.”

    Just two months ago, UQ students turned out in huge numbers to protest the Ramsay Centre – a much-criticised degree program that would teach the achievements of “western civilisation”.

    The Australian National University had previously rejected the degree over concerns it would override and influence teaching, and academics at the University of Sydney said it would turn the university into an “intellectual backwater”.

    The issue at UQ, says McNally, goes bigger than China.

    “Unfortunately, UQ doesn’t have a good track record in mitigating the impacts of external influence. Compared to what the Ramsay Centre is trying to do, I think the Confucius Institute is pretty tame by comparison. I think the focus should be on a code of conduct for all Australian universities that limits the extent of all external influence.”

    The day of the second rally proved McNally’s concerns valid. Organisers formally disinvited a speaker at the last minute after criticism the event was veering into anti-Chinese racism.

    Andrew Cooper, the Australian organiser of CPAC, the conservative conference featuring Nigel Farage and former editor-in-chief of Breitbart Raheem Kassam, had been slated to speak.

    On the ground, the attendants circulated, from Tibetan and Uighur Australians, Falun Gong members, Socialist Alliance activists and young Liberals. One man held up a sign about Xi Jinping that said he had “pooped his big boy pants”.

    And for many, the issue is not just the Confucius Centre, or the university or their education. It’s the actions of the Chinese counter-protestors and, by extension, the state itself.

    Høj tells Guardian Australia that he wants his campus to be a place where all students can protest and share their views, without violence or racism.

    “By their nature, universities bring people with differing views together to exchange ideas and learn from one another”.

    “UQ, like other Australian universities, encourages the respectful and lawful expression of views, and makes every effort to provide a safe environment for mature debate.

    “We do not tolerate hate speech, racism, violence and intimidation, and it would be disappointing if the unacceptable actions of a few detracted from the open and inclusive nature of our university communities.”

    On Friday, Høj has just returned from Papua New Guinea, in a neat coincidence that highlights again how everything is not just China. Former international UQ students include the PNG finance minister.

    “In a climate of declining federal funding as a share of total university funding, international students subsidise our universities, especially our research programs,” he says. “They also deepen our regional and international links, broaden the horizons of domestic students, and strengthen Australia’s own ‘soft power.’”

    ‘Basic human rights’
    Guardian Australia spoke to Chinese students among the 9,000 studying at the university and including those who were involved in courses run by the Confucius Institute, who did not want to be named.

    One student said he did not believe those involved in the pro-China counterprotest last week were students.

    “No, I have not seen them,” the engineering student said. “They’ve come from somewhere, I don’t know. I do not protest, I am here to study.”

    Many said they believed protesters had misunderstood the nature of programs at the Confucius Institute.

    “It helps us to have a focus on Chinese culture here. It makes us settle quickly,” one woman said.
    Jason, an Australian IT student, said he participated in a Confucius Institute program during high school and was advised by his teacher “don’t talk about” subjects that might be sensitive to China.

    “It’s more of a subtle censorship, where basically they’re making us self-censor,” Jason said.

    “They don’t tell us to censor, we do it ourselves. We are accepting that.”

    His friend, Sam, a dual Australian-Hong Kong national who wore a mask, said the university needed to be transparent about its relationship to the institute, including how it was funded.

    “You have to understand, that American and Canadian universities banned the Confucius Institute for a reason,” Sam said.

    “In light of the events that happened last week, how pro-democracy and peaceful protesters who support Hong Kong were attacked by pro-Chinese nationalists, we feel this trampling of our basic rights, our basic Australian rights, basic human rights of freedom of speech have been encroached on by this foreign institute that has been receiving money form the Chinese Communist Party. This is the sort of foreign interference that we cannot tolerate in Australia.”

    Davis said he felt the university had attempted to silence further protests, telling organisers to move to a quiet part of the campus and threatening that students would be held liable for any unruly behaviour.

    But that seemed only to compound anger towards the university; a further attempt to mask dissent, at a time when many of its Kong Hong foreign students have been emboldened to participate, but remain too scared to show their faces.

    Standing on four milk crates, wearing a black mask and a black cap, the student from Hong Kong speaks about the recent experiences of people there, who she says have met with consequences after they shared experiences from the protests on social media.

    “It is no longer a political issue about extradition. It’s a moral issue now. However, I’m not truly able to say any of this. Between you and I, this can just be a dream, or a story.

    “And why am I so emotional? Because Hong Kong is my home.”

    Naaman Zhou and Ben Smee
    Sun 4 Aug 2019
    The Guardian

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