Chinese pro-democracy students ‘fear speaking out’ in Australia

China pressure 'undermining Australian universities', report says
A new report says pro-democracy Chinese students fear speaking freely in Australia. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: A new report says that Chinese pro-democracy students in Australia fear punishment for their families back home if they speak out on sensitive issues.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) found such students feel surveilled in Australia, which leads many to self-censor in classrooms.

Academics teaching China courses in Australia say they have also felt pressure to censor themselves.

HRW said the perceived pressure was undermining the academic freedom of Australian universities.

Higher education system in Australia is heavily reliant on fee-paying Chinese students, which accounted in pre-pandemic times for about 40% of all international students in the country.

There are currently about 160,000 Chinese students enrolled in many universities in Australia.

In recent years, there has been growing concern about China’s influence on local campuses, following a deterioration in relations between the two nations.

Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed nearly 50 academics and students in Australia and found an “atmosphere of fear” that had worsened in recent years.

Researchers said they had confirmed three cases where a student’s activities in Australia had prompted police in China to get in contact with their families there or visit them over their actions.

Chinese authorities also threatened a student with jail, in one case, after they opened a Twitter account in Australia and posted pro-democracy messages.

Many pro-democracy students also said HRW that they feared fellow students reporting on them to Chinese authorities.

The report said: “Fear that what they did in Australia could result in Chinese authorities punishing or interrogating their parents back home weighed heavily on the minds of every pro-democracy student interviewed.”

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