World’s most famous undergraduate’ returns to study but vows to keep up human rights’ work
With the new year comes new opportunity for activist Drew Pavlou to complete his final year of studies after the University of Queensland (UQ) suspended him for the last semester of 2020. It is an opportunity he welcomes but it will not stop him from continuing the human rights activism.
“I return to the university at the end of February and I want to finish my studies, but I will not let up on my activism and I will not keep quiet,” he told Neos Kosmos. “I have only a year left on my degree and will go full time into my studies and full time into activism. I do want to graduate to pursue my ideals.
“I am working with Tony Morris QC (the barrister who has represented Mr Pavlou in his struggles with UQ). I am working on my case and I manage his office. (After graduating) I may become a manager clerk and may look at studying human rights law.”
Mr Pavlou said he had been invited to appear in Canberra before a parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security that is holding an inquiry into national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector.
It was Mr Pavlou’s activism in2019 in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and against the treatment of the Uighur community in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that led to his being labelled a “separatist” by China’s state media and to his becoming a target for threats and social media attacks which were praised by the PRC consul general in Brisbane Dr Xu Jie. The consul general was also an adjunct professor of the UQ’s Confucius Institute at the time.
In August, last year, Mr Pavlou’s public order case against the consul-general failed in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on the basis that Dr Jie was a consular officer with diplomatic immunity.
In the same month, UQ suspended Mr Pavlou for the final semester and removed him from his elected position on the Senate after a disciplinary board ruled against him. The suspension and his removal from the senate were among the first decisions made by the incoming vice chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AO.
Mr Pavlou’s treatment drew worldwide media attention on the role of the PPC in academic institutions in Australia. One commentator labelled the world’s most famous undergraduate”. Over the past year, Australia has drawn the ire of the PRC with its call to investigate the causes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel that people are waking up to PPC’s meddling in our institutions. I can feel (the change in attitude) in the air.”
The not-for-profit organisation Defend Democracy that he launched last October has just submitted a petition calling on the Australian government to cancel its free trade agreement with China.
Mr Pavlou has also been in conciliation talks with UQ. He said he was considering taking the university to the Supreme Court over its treatment of him.