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Supporters of Beijing have been accused of bullying, threatening, and spying on dozens of Chinese and Hong Kong students on Australia’s university campuses, a Human Rights Watch report has found. More than 20 students across the nation’s top 16 campuses have told the landmark report that pro-Beijing activists in Australia have put photos of them on Chinese social media sites and labelled them traitors, threatened them at rallies, and even reported their families to Communist Party authorities back in Beijing. Some students have also told researchers that they have been hauled in by the regime, when they have returned to China, to explain their pro-democracy activities in Australia. And one student claimed Chinese officials offered to pay for his studies if he spied on members of Australia’s Muslim Uyghur community.

Human Rights Watch is now calling on the nation’s university vice-chancellors and the Morrison government to do more to protect students from campus intimidation and to bolster the value of academic freedom in the face of growing Beijing influence. The university sector said it was deeply concerned by the Human Rights Watch report, and its peak bodies said they were working with government to tackle foreign interference. But many of the pro-democracy students surveyed for the report said they did not feel the universities had been able or willing to step in and protect them. Bonnie, a pro-democracy Hong Kong student at the University of Queensland, said she had been regularly abused on campus and her friends had seen their families targeted by authorities back home.

“When I have been involved in pro-democracy protests on campus, we have been surrounded by Chinese nationalist students, or people brought in by the Chinese embassy. I have had my photo taken and put up on Chinese social media sites. They call us separatists and say we betray the country,” she said. “I’ve been lucky that my parents have not been contacted. One of my friends on campus has been called by his mother back home, saying the police came and that he shouldn’t be involved in protests. The mother of another friend is also currently detained.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports