UQ publishes emails to Chinese consulate
A QUEENSLAND University has published copies of internal emails that it refused to produce during a disciplinary hearing in which a student activist sought them to fight his expulsion.
Fourth-year philosophy student Drew Pavlou and his legal representative, prominent barrister Tony Morris QC yesterday walked out of Mr Pavlou's hearing, claiming the process was not legitimate.
A self professed "anti-Chinese Communist Party" activist, 20-year-old Mr Pavlou faces 11 allegations of misconduct over which he is fighting expulsion.
Mr Pavlou last year led a protest supporting Hong Kong's democracy movement in which he was allegedly assaulted.
Mr Morris QC sought access to internal documents for Mr Pavlou's defence at the disciplinary hearing, including correspondence between UQ and the Chinese Consulate-General after the protest last year, claiming they had liaised on their media response.
In response to the claims that UQ sought approval of its public relations statement with the Chinese Consulate about the protest, the University posted emails on its website late on Wednesday, with names redacted, detailing a timeline of correspondence between the institution and the Chinese Consulate on the day of a student protest in July last year.
"Unsubstantiated claims that the University co-ordinated its public response to the student protest on 24 July 2019 with the Chinese Consulate are ludicrous and the University strongly rejects them," a UQ statement said.
"These claims are also demonstrably inaccurate and are irrelevant to any current disciplinary process."
Mr Morris told The Courier-Mail that the emails were "some of" the documents they requested for yesterday's hearing.
"What they plainly show is that a draft public statement was sent to the Chinese Consulate-General "for review". The dictionary meaning of "review" is "a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary"," Mr Morris QC said.
"Since when does UQ send public statements to the diplomatic representatives of a foreign government … for "formal assessment … with the intention of instituting change if necessary".
Mr Morris said he and Mr Pavlou were not provided with the documents, and only became aware the copies were published after he was contacted by The Courier-Mail for comment.
"We are not shown the actual communications with the Chinese Consulate-General, so that we might tell what kind of 'review' was intended.
"Nor are we shown the response from the Chinese Consulate-General, showing what kind of 'review' actually took place.
"Nor are we shown any of the surrounding communications, which would establish how UQ set up this mechanism to have the Chinese Consulate-General 'review' UQ's public statements. There is obviously much more yet to come."
Mr Morris said they had requested complete, unredacted, and unexpurgated copies of all communications between UQ and the Chinese Consulate-General between July 22 and July 26, and all instructions given to UQ staff concerning the correspondence.
"So, we have now moved from a position where Drew Pavlou was denied access to any of the documents, to a position where the whole world is permitted to see some of them, albeit a few hand-picked items, and even those items heavily redacted," Mr Morris said.
"This suggests that UQ is more interested in public relations - bowing to pressure from the media - than in giving students a fair disciplinary hearing."
A UQ spokesperson said the documents were not relevant to the disciplinary matter.
"They were posted last night to correct the record, in response to unsubstantiated claims that had been publicly made," the spokesperson said.
"The documents are not heavily redacted. The only redactions are of names and email addresses, to protect personal information and privacy.
The University held firm that "no public statement was sent to the Chinese Consulate for review".
"As the documents make clear, a UQ staff member sent an internal email asking a Deputy Vice-Chancellor to review a proposed message intended to be sent to the Consulate," a spokesperson said.
"Following approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the message was then sent to the Consulate, hours after UQ's public statement was posted. Similar messages were sent to other stakeholders."
A UQ statement online said on July 24 2019, the University posted its public response to the protest on the UQ Facebook page at 4.40pm and by 5.30pm had shared this with a number of media outlets.
"At 5.46pm, an hour after the public statement, a member of the communication team asked a Deputy Vice-Chancellor via email to review a proposed message to the Chinese Consulate.
"The message outlined the University's expectations that students express their views in a lawful and respectful manner and provided contact details for Chinese students seeking support," the statement said.
"The message was approved without any changes, and emailed to the Consulate and copied to the Confucius Institute at 7.05pm. The Vice-Chancellor was not in contact with the Consulate on this matter. In addition, the University also communicated its position to a number of other stakeholders including government, partners and the sector's peak bodies."
Mr Pavlou on Wednesday said he was sure he would win an appeal on any decision to expel him, and would fight it in the highest of courts.
"It's the vibe. It's justice. It's Mabo, it's the vibe," Mr Pavlou said outside the hearing.
Originally published as UQ publishes emails to Chinese consulate