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Australia Kevin Rudd accuses UQ of appearing to 'bend the knee to Beijing'

02:05  03 june  2020
02:05  03 june  2020 Source:   brisbanetimes.com.au

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Drew Pavlou was handed a two-year suspension by the university last week, after he was alleged to have contravened UQ's student charter and integrity and harassment policies.

The allegations made against Mr Pavlou were outlined in a confidential 186-page document, but were believed to be linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

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Mr Rudd said he was becoming "increasingly concerned at how Chancellor [Peter] Varghese is presiding over the shredding of the national and international reputation of one of our nation's leading universities through the mismanagement of the Pavlou case".

"Varghese has allowed this case to escalate into a major debate around the world as to whether the university stands for academic freedom or not. It should have been nipped in the bud much earlier," Mr Rudd told Brisbane Times.

"Varghese has boasted he has the experience to handle the complexity of the university's China relationship given his background as a senior Australian diplomat.

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"Instead, the university is now seen around Australia and the world as bending the knee to Beijing, rather than just dealing with a badly behaved undergraduate.

"It's time for Varghese to act now to restore Drew Pavlou's right to complete his degree - while requiring Pavlou to adhere to the same social media protocols as the rest of us."

Mr Varghese did not comment on the former prime minister's remarks.

A spokeswoman for the chancellor referred to an earlier statement, in which Mr Varghese said he was concerned by aspects of the findings and would convene a meeting of UQ's Senate this week to discuss the matter.

Mr Rudd said Mr Pavlou had been a regular critic of his and he had "hardly conducted himself with grace".

"Nonetheless, the university's response to his case is excessive. Effectively terminating a young man's academic career is completely disproportionate," he said.

"Drew Pavlou is hardly the first brash young activist to protest against their university. I would have expected Pavlou's activism to be tolerated, just as other radical student activists have been tolerated in decades past.

"If he has violated state or federal laws, then there are mechanisms available for dealing with that outside the disciplinary procedures of the university."

Mr Pavlou, who had six months left of his degree, has vowed to fight his suspension in the Supreme Court.

The university has maintained disciplinary action against Mr Pavlou was not in relation to his criticism of UQ's relationship with China.

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