Monday, September 2, 2019

Australian Universities As Battleground For HK Protests

By Professor Doom

      As I recover from lung surgery #2 (and a new 9" scar), a somewhat shorter post than usual.

     A while back I wrote about Chinese influence on our campuses; I still believe it’s an infinitesimally small problem compared to  other issues in higher ed, but a reader took me to task for it, believing I was underestimating the threat. I suppose there’s room for disagreement to just how much evil the Chinese government can possibly do on campus while a great deal of definite evil is being done by the "leaders" there, but the reader did have a point about what’s happening on Australian campuses:

Australian unis become battleground over HK protests

     While I’ve lightly covered the corruption of the Australian higher education system, it’s been a few years, and much has changed recently, particularly with regards to events in Hong Kong.

Tensions in Hong Kong have rippled across Australian universities, as supporters of the pro-democracy protests have been targeted and harassed by “patriotic” mainland students – with the tacit backing of Beijing.

But that has angered some mainland Chinese students, who have physically confronted protestors, torn down message boards and demanded universities provide a “pure study environment” free of political messages that “insult” their homeland.

--emphasis added.

     And here I am feeling like a Chinese apologist again. Before going further, I’ll give such disclosure as I have. I’ve been to Beijing, China, speak a bit of Mandarin, have Chinese friends—the latter is almost a necessity in my field, as grad school in mathematics has plenty of Asian students. To my knowledge, I’ve never taken a penny from the Chinese government (feel free to use the donate button, President Xi!). Every Chinese mathematician I’ve known has cared far more about mathematics than China, although I’m sure there are exceptions.

       In any event, what’s wrong with making universities a pure study environment? Politics has warped the American university system to the point that many campuses are little more than ideological training centers, and similar activity occurs in Australia…so, I rather see the point of Chinese students counter-protesting the pro-Hong Kong protests. While the article references “tacit approval” for the counter-protests, this seems a bit of a slant—it’s quite reasonable to assume the Chinese government would be in support of the Chinese government after all, there’s no need for the article to emphasize the obvious here.

“We wear masks because we know they will take photos and put it online on their social network sites and they try to find who (we) are,” said 23-year-old student James, who witnessed the skirmish.

He said several students who participated had their details published online and at least one had been the target of harassment, including anonymous phone calls.

       I’m not wild that the “pro democracy” students are wearing masks, even as I get that these days, “doxing” is a real thing. Why don’t the pro-Chinese supporters wear masks, though?

Australia’s cash-strapped universities have struggled to respond, weighing support for free speech with the need to sustain a lucrative supply of Chinese students.

More than 181,000 Chinese people are enrolled in Australian universities – by far the largest cohort of overseas students – bringing more than US$6.8 billion into the economy each year.

   Much as in the United States, universities are more about “the dollar” than about education, and so I have to worry that, yes, the universities will be coming down against the HK protestors to support their meal tickets from China. To put the above statistics in context the reader should note that something like 360,000 Chinese students come to American universities—considering the US has about 15x the population of Australia with a smaller relative college student base, Chinese students do represent a far larger concern in Australia than here.

      The Chinese Students and Scholars Association – a government-backed body – has led complaints about the pro-Hong Kong protests.

…“We are all students, we should focus on our study,” it said.

      Yes,  I concede the above is a little sinister overall, and I even respect the pro-Hong Kong students needing to be careful about their identities, lest their families (and themselves) face trouble in China or Hong Kong. China doesn’t have the free speech protections which Americans enjoy (unless they speak out against the SJW narrative, anyway--I encourage the gentle reader to watch the Dave Chapelle Netflix special, by the way), so we do have a problem here which is very different than in the United States.

      Of course, the Australian higher education leaders could just start tossing students on both sides, if they protest on campus, although I don’t see them doing that, since it would cut into the money. And so this problem will continue to fester on their campuses, eventually damaging the already corrupted higher education system of Australia. 

      That said, the pro-Hong Kong protesters could move their protests off campus. If they’re hiding their identity, then none need know college students were involved, and the Chinese students could then stay on campus and focus on their studies. 

      Could give that a try, at least…


  1. All the very best for a speedy recovery

    1. Thanks. Two weeks out and feels like Mike Tyson used my chest for a speed bag...but getting better.