Uni Protest Turns Violent As Hong Kong And China Supporters Clash
Hundreds of pro-Hong Kong and pro-China protesters have clashed at the University of Queensland, with police and security forced to break up the duelling factions.
The action started around midday on Wednesday at the university's St Lucia campus, with around 150 students and supporters protesting China's treatment of Hong Kong.
However, they were soon confronted by a loud group of pro-Chinese students, who showed up to counter-protest with large speakers playing the country's national anthem and other songs.
While initially peaceful, tensions boiled over around 12:45pm, when it's alleged a group of pro-China students approached the Hong Kong group, shouting and attempting to drown them out with music. Witnesses claim a small number of Chinese students then began getting physical, allegedly pulling down signs, and punching and shoving some of the Hong Kong students.
A video of one incident showed students pushing and throwing punches.
One of the protesters claimed on Facebook he was "punched four or five times by Chinese ultra loyalist students."
A small group of Hong Kong protesters then staged a sit-in at the campus' Confucius Center where they announced on Facebook that they wouldn't move until Vice-Chancellor and President Peter Høj agreed to meet them there to talk.
Photos from the scene showed hundreds of people congregating.
Chinese protesters remained within UQ's Great Court, where the protest began, allegedly refusing to move on under the request of police and campus security.
The protests follow the university announcing Brisbane Chinese Consul General Xu Jie as Visiting Professor of Language and Culture earlier in July.
Many of the pro-Hong Kong students were vocal about their concerns about UQ's close relationship with the Chinese government..
In a statement to 10 daily, the University of Queensland said it had called police to break up the incident.
"In response to safety concerns resulting from a student-initiated protest on campus, the University requested police support," UQ said.
"On the advice of police, protesters were requested to move on. The safety of all students is paramount to the University."
UQ said it had a role to "enable" free speech, including "debate about ideas we may not all support or agree with".
The protest comes at a time of escalating tension in Hong Kong, especially among younger people, as a simmering current of anti-China sentiment bubbles. Recent weeks have seen millions of people fill streets in protest of a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trial. It sparked huge and at times violent street protests, and plunged the former British colony into turmoil.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam finally announced the bill was "dead".
Further anti-government protests have continued, with demonstrators laying siege to Hong Kong's Beijing liaison office this week.