Chinese students fight against media bias and anti-China forces in Australia

By Hu Yuwei, Li Lei and Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/7 18:39:42

Chinese students in Australia use creative methods to protect national sovereignty and dispel misrepresentation of pro-independence forces

○ Expert said activities of separatist groups in Australia pander to West's "political correctness" and prejudice against China

A view of the Australian University of Queensland (UQ) Photo: VCG

Recent campus skirmishes between patriotic Chinese students at the Australian University of Queensland (UQ) and anti-China and secessionist protesters have drawn global attention. Due to concerns over media bias, more and more Chinese students have used creative measures to give themselves a voice. 

On July 24, several anti-China activists at the university organized a campaign on campus that seriously distorted policies in China's Hong Kong and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and even demanded that the university close its Confucius Institute.

In response to this protest, patriotic students joined together and sang the Chinese national anthem as the conflict between two sides escalated into minor physical clashes. 

China's Consulate-General in Brisbane issued a statement on July 25 praising Chinese students for their spontaneous patriotism, and vowed to stand against any instigation of anti-China sentiment or the use of protests to create bad blood between Chinese mainland students and those from Hong Kong.

However, some Australian media outlets covered the conflict by cutting out interviews with counter-protest students, distorted the facts and gave a very biased view of the event.

In one response, Chinese students made a video to clarify the misunderstanding of the Hong Kong issue that has pervaded Australian campuses. Students have also used more entertaining forms such as emoji packages and rap songs to show their patriotism.

Like separatists in Hong Kong, anti-China forces in Australia have used the campus as an ideological battleground, pushing students to the front lines to draw attention and sympathy. Some experts were concerned that Western universities are becoming a breeding ground for secessionist forces.

Adapted memes posted on a billboard in the campus of the University of Queensland by Chinese students. The Chinese words printed on the posters are "Want Hong Kong to be independent? No way!" Photo: Courtesy of a Chinese student from UQ

Biased coverage

Recalling what happened in UQ, some Chinese overseas students reached by the Global Times, who were involved in the counter-protest, said they "still feel very angry and disappointed."

"This is the first time I've seen these foreign separatist groups colluding together to disrupt peace and stability in China and driving a wedge between the mainland and Hong Kong. I always thought it was hyperbole in media before I came here, but the moment I saw it, I was furious," Wang Jia(pseudonym), a graduate from South China's Guangdong Province who witnessed the whole process, told the Global Times.

"The video shows that many of the protesters are white people. It's ridiculous that a bunch of white people are protesting the domestic affairs of a country that they've never been to and barely know about," said a 27-year-old graduate of UQ surnamed Gao.

"The 'students' who claim to support Hong Kong's 'democracy' act as if they are prepared to provoke us, not as students but as paid professional actors," a sophomore undergraduate surnamed Zhu who declined to give his full name described the scene to the Global Times. "Some claimed to be protesters against the Hong Kong extradition bill but they were unable to show their student ID card upon reporters' requests, leaving many to suspect their real identity."

"At the end of the day, when the crowd was about to disperse, a white man burst into the crowd of Chinese students and shouted, 'Free Hong Kong!' I felt like his intention was to escalate the conflict on purpose or as part of a plan." 

Zhu said that some activists even gave the middle finger to students who opposed the protest and used Cantonese to insult mainland students. "They called us Communist thugs," he said. But none of this was mentioned in local newspapers.

Patriotic students on the scene advised each other to keep calm, but were inevitably tagged by many local media as the perpetrators of the campus conflict. 

Australian media outlets including ABC and 7News rushed to the scene and focused on the violence, according to students reached by the Global Times. But the 7News only gave the voices of anti-China protesters in their video clip and cut out the interviews of patriotic mainland students.

"They made no mention of the protesters' insults and personal attacks against us, but rather emphasized that we were blocking their freedom of speech. But we didn't even get a chance to make our voices heard," said one Chinese student who asked for anonymity.

"They [media] turned the whole event into a one-sided story about Chinese students hurting protesters without even mentioning a word about how the protesters provoked Chinese students," Gao told the Global Times.

Gao believes that these anti-China forces have long existed in Australia, as he has received anti-China flyers many times on the street. "At the very least, I will definitely fight back if I see anyone spreading separatist rhetoric on the street," he said.

Patriotic efforts

On July 24, Wang, who once lived in Hong Kong for a few years, spent the night making a video explaining the entire conflict from the point of view of a witness. He uploaded the video with Cantonese, Chinese and English captions onto social media platforms, but quickly received a flurry of abuse from separatists. His driver's license was even exposed on Facebook without permission, but this did not stop him, Wang told the Global Times. 

Wang put up a "patriotic wall" on campus to present some facts about the Hong Kong issue not mentioned by Western media, such as the extreme actions of some rioters. "Outsiders must first understand clearly and objectively before they interfere in the Hong Kong issue," Wang stressed.

Students said they don't want Chinese students to be targeted by the whole school because of any misunderstanding, so they think of ways to make things clear.

Zhu set up a WeChat group after the incident called "Civilly opposed to separatism, Hong Kong and mainland are family." UQ alumni in the group have started raising money to distribute free T-shirts featuring Chinese culture on campus.

Other Chinese patriotic students have come up with entertaining methods of expression, such as putting up funny memes and slogans in the campus rejecting the separatists in a bid to avoid a direct confrontation, Fang, 19, an undergraduate of UQ, told the Global Times.

According to the pictures Fang sent to the Global Times, students adapted some widely circulated and popular memes with text such as "guardian Hong Kong," "never yield an inch of land," and "We are family" to express the principle that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China.

One student expressed his anger against the separatists using rap music. J DOG, a rapper, and his friend at Griffith University in Queensland produced a rap song titled "We Got Something To Say," to support Chinese students who had fought against the separatists that day.

"The song represents our faith and dignity, as well as our unchangeable standpoint," reads an introduction to the song.

New battlefield

Australian universities are usually open to various political affiliations from all over the world, according to a graduate of UQ who asked not to be named. She was concerned that the public opinion environment in Australia may encourage separatist activities.

Zhu told the Global Times that after clashes on July 24, various separatist actions continued to be staged across campus and anti-Chinese speeches by Falun Gong, a cult group that is notorious among overseas Chinese, were frequently seen. 

"But the scale is very limited. The number of organizers is sometimes much larger than the number of spectators, and the audience is mostly scattered. Some just stop to watch for a few seconds but almost nobody responds to their slogans," said Zhu.

Experts believe that so-called "freedom of speech" has become a common tool - a form of political correctness - used by Western countries to attack China. For typical Western countries like Australia, it is politically correct to attack the political system of socialist countries, Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries, Liaocheng University based in Shandong Province, told the Global Times.

"The peaceful rise of China has greatly challenged the superiority of their political system. The Tibet- and Xinjiang-related issues and Taiwan question have all become their targets," said Yu. "Freedom of speech can only work within the framework of political correctness."

Universities in Western countries have always been important battlegrounds for competition and control by various parties, and is a long tradition that is far more complex than it looks, Yu continued.

The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, quoted experts as saying in its report on the conflict that "the Hong Kong issue is simply another flashpoint illustrating a growing display of assertive nationalism by Chinese students studying on foreign campuses." Yu disagrees with the stereotype that the West imposes on China.

"In their eyes, only Westerners who defend their country's sovereignty can be defined as 'patriotic,' while the same thing done by people from third world countries would be called 'assertive nationalism.' That is a typical example of double standards in Western countries," Yu claimed.


Newspaper headline: Campus conflict

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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