High-profile student protesters from Hong Kong have arrived in Australia for meetings in Melbourne and Canberra, as demonstrations across the Asian city continue into their third month.
The students from the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation (IAD) — a lobby group founded by the student unions of Hong Kong’s universities — will meet with international students from Hong Kong studying at Melbourne universities.
Tensions between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students on Australian campuses have spiked in the wake of the pro-democracy protests, resulting in heated confrontations at universities in Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra.
Death threats were also made against pro-Hong Kong protesters at the University of Technology Sydney.
Some protests in cities across Australia have become violent, with scuffles breaking out at a demonstration in Melbourne last month where a speaker was also pushed onto an ABC News cameraman.
Sunny Cheung, 23, a student at Hong Kong University and one of the visiting protesters, told the ABC the student unions were concerned about the safety of Hongkonger international students in Australia following the incidents.
“We were very upset about [the violence], and we want to know more about their needs here,” Mr Cheung said.
“We urge the Australian Government to do more things to protect international students from Hong Kong … and protect the freedom of speech at campuses to avoid potential attacks.”
IAD has recently shifted its focus towards garnering international support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
The group held an event in Hong Kong last month with more than 60,000 participants, urging more foreign governments to express support for the demonstrators.
The ABC understands Mr Cheung and other IAD members will meet with some federal politicians in Canberra this week.
Mr Cheung said any move by China to quell the protests by force would have far-reaching ramifications, especially in Australia..
“We have more than 100,000 Australians in Hong Kong, and anything happening there can result in a big impact to the whole world,” he said.
The group intends to fly to more countries to lobby politicians, and Mr Cheung is planning to give a speech at the UK Parliament, and later in the US, as part of efforts to keep attention on Hong Kong.
Dissidents to speak in Melbourne
The students will also be attending a seminar featuring artist Badiucao and the Canto-pop singer and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho which will go ahead at the Melbourne City Conference Centre on Wednesday, after the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) last week said it could not host the event.
The panel discussion is about the situation in Hong Kong and the city’s future, and will also include author and academic Clive Hamilton, whose 2018 book Silent Invasion warned about growing Chinese Government influence in Australia.
The NGV said it “was unable to accommodate the security and logistics required to book this event with short notice”, however Badiucao and Ho have suggested the decision was due to fear of reprisal from Beijing.
The gallery is currently exhibiting several Terracotta Warriors on loan from China. It said it supported artists’ rights to express a range of political viewpoints.
“I thought it was quite shocking,” Ho told the ABC’s The World program last week.
“That is a kind of self-censorship that is happening not only in Melbourne, not only in Hong Kong but worldwide, where we see these different institutions and organisations … starting to keep a distance with all these protests from Hongkongers.”
The protests in Hong Kong were initially sparked by a proposed extradition bill that would have paved the way for Hongkongers to face trial in front of mainland Chinese courts, which critics say are not independent from the Government.
While that bill has since been suspended, pro-democracy demonstrators are now calling for the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam and an investigation into the use of force by police during the protests among other objectives.
By Bang Xiao