A peaceful protest at the University of Queensland against the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong citizens turned violent at the St Lucia campus.
Protesters were sitting on the ground with placards and shouting “save Hong Kong” about midday while calling on the university to cut financial ties with the Chinese government on Wednesday during UQ Market Day.
Tensions grew when a pro-Chinese Communist Party counter-protester pulled a megaphone from the protest organiser and threw it before punches were thrown and drinks were poured over them.
The big standoff between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese international students drew campus security and police to the campus to control the situation about 1pm.
Bystander Hamish Greenop-Roberts said he was passing by the Great Court when he had the urge to begin filming.
“I could see Chinese protesters had placards saying ‘China’s Hong Kong’ and some said ‘closed camp’,” he said.
“All democracy protesters were chanting ‘shame’ and had placards saying ‘no China extradition’, ‘close the concentration camps’ and ‘UQ and Psycho Hoj take blood money from genocidal regime’ [a reference to UQ Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj].
“I think what aggravated [the pro-CCP protesters] was ‘when Muslim rights are under attack, fight back’.
Mr Greenop-Roberts, who was pro-democracy, said he arrived when the crowd became aggressive.
“I was shocked at the violence,” he said.
“Pro-democracy protesters were making a political point and all of a sudden people got angry, a megaphone was thrown and liquids and drinks were spilled.
“I was just shocked and amazed at the rage that a group of people had dared to question the Chinese government and the switch got flicked so quickly.
“It’s crazy that something like this is happening at a Queensland university.”
Police were called about 1pm and left the scene about 4.30pm but no charges were laid.
A UQ spokeswoman said students and staff could express their views in a lawful and respectful manner on campus.
“One of the roles of universities is to enable open, respectful and lawful free speech, including debate about ideas we may not all support or agree with,” she said.
“Earlier today, in response to safety concerns resulting from a student-initiated protest on campus, the University requested police support.
“On the advice of police, protestors were requested to move on.”
By Jocelyn Garcia