Queensland Police have launched an investigation into a top Chinese diplomat for allegedly inciting violent threats against an Australian university student.
A spokesperson confirmed to news.com.au that inquiries centring on Dr Xu Jie, the Consul-General for the People’s Republic of China in Brisbane, had commenced following a formal complaint lodged by Drew Pavlou.
Mr Pavlou, an undergraduate student at The University of Queensland, alleges that a public statement issued by Dr Xu on July 25 last year described him as a “separatist” and opened him up to graphic death threats and vile abuse.
The remarks by the Consul-General were in response to a protest held the day before at UQ’s St Lucia campus, organised by the 20-year-old.
He and a group of between 15 and 20 other students gathered to speak out against Beijing’s anti-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the treatment of the Uighur minority, and the university’s close ties with China.
An estimated 200 Communist Party supporters gatecrashed the small, peaceful sit-in and violence broke out, forcing police to send a large presence to the campus.
Mr Pavlou was assaulted by men who didn’t appear to be students and who he alleges were sent by the Consulate.
That night, Global Times – the English language mouthpiece of the Communist Party – published a scathing article about the fracas, naming Mr Pavlou, running a photograph of him and declaring him a separatist.
In mainland China, being seen as a separatist is a crime on par with murder and punishable with the death penalty.
When Dr Xu repeated the description, describing “anti-China separatist activities” in his statement, Mr Pavlou alleges he received an avalanche of threats.
“There were threats against me and my family, someone said they’d rape my mother in front of me and then kill us … it was vile stuff,” he said.
As well as a Chinese diplomat, Dr Xu is an adjunct professor at UQ after being awarded an honorary position by the university.
“A small number of people with ulterior motives carried out anti-China activists at the University of Queensland in Australia, causing indignation and protests from overseas Chinese students of the mainland and Hong Kong,” his statement read.
“The consulate general regards highly the importance of the safety of the overseas Chinese students and affirms the self-motivated patriotic behaviour of the overseas Chinese students.
“The consulate general resolutely opposes to (sic) any conduct by words or behaviour to split the country … and to incite anti-China behaviour.”
He went on to describe Mr Pavlou’s protest as “anti-China separatist activities”.
Mr Pavlou is engaged in a brawl with his university, which levelled disciplinary charges shortly after the protest and has since moved to expel him.
The university denies that matter is linked to the protest or his criticism of UQ’s links with China.
Mr Pavlou is appealing the ruling and an outcome is expected next week.
With the help of his barrister, the prominent Tony Morris QC, he has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against UQ, Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj and Chancellor Peter Varghese, seeking damages of $3.5 million.
Queensland Police would not comment further in the investigation into Mr Pavlou’s complaint.
The Chinese Consulate was contacted for comment for this story.
By Shannon Molloy