Student-led protests on campus

This page has been created to provide factual information about the student-led protest on Wednesday 24 July, the planned protest on Wednesday 31 July and concerns raised about UQ’s relationship with China.

The University has zero tolerance for violence and intimidation, which is why on 24 July our security staff at the St Lucia campus asked for police assistance to disperse protestors.

Safety is our number one priority and we want to ensure our students, staff and others can go about their activities on campus.

An investigation commenced last week into the circumstances that led to the unacceptable actions by a small number of individuals against our students and staff at the 24 July protest. We have offered support to students and staff who were affected.

Students requiring support should contact Student Services or telephone 1300 851 998.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about their personal safety, the safety of others, or possible criminal behaviour, to contact Queensland Police Service. 

Media queries should be directed to communications@uq.edu.au.

Message from the Vice-Chancellor

I understand that the unacceptable actions of 24 July by a small number of protestors, and the subsequent discussion around UQ’s relationship with China, is causing concern for some.

The University believes in everyone’s right to free speech and we will do everything within our means to uphold this right and provide a safe environment for people to express their views.

Inevitably, there will be ideas and topics upon which people will not agree – but it is the way we go about disagreeing which will influence the quality of our society. We need to  be able to ’disagree well’.

I thank our security staff and the Queensland Police Service for their support last week, and their prompt and effective response when the unacceptable actions of a few protestors inflamed what had been a peaceful protest.

I trust our students and staff attending the protests this Wednesday at St Lucia will act in a manner that reflects UQ’s values.

Peter

Planning for a lawful and respectful protest

We know that some of our students and staff may have concerns ahead of the student-led protests planned for Wednesday 31 July.

We want to provide assurance that safety on campus is our number one priority. We expect that our students and staff are able go about their usual activities, without disruption.

And, we also need to ensure that those protesting, lawfully and respectfully, are able to do so.

To make this possible we are asking for our students and staff to support the following plan we have developed with the Queensland Police Service.

  • To ensure a safe environment, a designated area on the Forgan Smith lawn will be provided to allow people to freely express their views. 
  • UQ students and staff are requested to carry their ID cards with them on the day.
  • If you wear a mask, you may be asked by security or police to temporarily remove the mask for identification purposes only.
  • In line with our UQ values, abusive or threatening language, posturing against students, staff or police, or violence will not be tolerated.

We will ask protestors to disperse if there are any breaches of these protocols.

Security and police will be present to monitor the protests and respond to any safety concerns.

Protest organisers and representatives from the UQ Student Union are being briefed on these arrangements, and we expect a respectful and lawful demonstration.

Any enquiries should be directed to Property and Facilities.

Designated area for protests

Questions answered

What is being done to ensure safety ahead of the Wednesday 31 July protest?

We have been working with the Queensland Police Service to ensure the planned student-initiated protest this week goes ahead in a lawful and respectful manner. 

The University will discuss these plans (see Planning for a lawful and respectful protest) with organisers of the protest and student representatives, to ensure the safety of protestors and minimise disruption to our community on the day.

Safety is our number one priority. We want our students, staff and others to be able to go about their activities on campus.

What is UQ doing about the student protest that occurred on Wednesday 24 July?

On Wednesday 24 July, a student-initiated protest took place on our St Lucia campus. Security staff became concerned when the unacceptable actions of a small number of individuals posed a potential safety risk to those present. Police were called and worked with UQ to help diffuse tensions.

A review was launched immediately into the circumstances that led to the incident. A thorough investigation is underway.

UQ students have been contacted where there have been any concerns raised either formally or informally about their safety, or their welfare.

Is UQ committed to freedom of speech?

Absolutely. Freedom of speech is an important tenet of any democracy and goes to the heart of the pursuit of truth, and therefore knowledge. The University is committed to the principles of academic freedom, freedom of expression and institutional autonomy, and we have robust systems to enable these principles.

The Australian Government commissioned an independent review into university freedom of speech led by Robert French, former Chief Justice of the High Court Chief of Australia, late last year. The report found that there was no freedom of speech ‘crisis’ on university campuses. UQ is part of ongoing discussions regarding a free speech ‘model code’.

Bullying and intimidating behaviour, including hate speech, will not be tolerated at UQ. All staff and students are required to abide by our relevant conduct policies including our Student Charter and Code of Conduct.

Why does UQ have a Confucius Institute?

UQ firmly believes that productive global engagement is a prerequisite for a more cohesive and prosperous world, and accordingly we have formed substantial partnerships in many countries and have offices in both Indonesia and the USA.

The role of the UQ Confucius Institute is to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture, and a broader understanding of China, at the University and in the community. The Institute does not teach any degree courses at UQ.

Examples of outreach activities undertaken by the Institute include a drowning prevention campaign for Chinese visitors to the state (at the request of Queensland Police Service), and a Chinese Film Festival (which showed an action adventure and a comedy) in partnership with the Australia-China Youth Association, which the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) sponsors.

The first agreement for a Confucius Institute on campus was signed in 2009. There are 13 Confucius Institutes at Australian universities and one in the NSW Department of Education.

What is the status of UQ’s Confucius Institute agreement?

The previous agreement expired in April this year. The renegotiation of the agreement was discussed at UQ Senate meetings in April and May. The University has made it clear, in relation to both the Confucius Institute and the proposed Ramsay Centre, that our academic freedom and institutional autonomy are not negotiable.

The following were among the points raised, as reflected in the publicly available Senate minutes:

  • As the University wishes to have the ability to make the agreement available publicly, any references in the agreement relating to confidentiality should be removed.
  • UQ will continue to ensure that any agreement complies with applicable laws.
  • A mechanism to revoke the agreement (by both parties) should be included.

Has UQ been transparent with students about the renegotiation of its Confucius Institute agreement?

Students are members of both our Senate and our Academic Board. In addition, the President of the UQ Union is an ex officio member of Academic Board and is invited to attend Senate as an observer. Their role is to represent the student voice.

The minutes of Senate, other than confidential items, are publicly available.

The University also regularly meets and engages with the UQ Union President, along with other student representative groups.

Is UQ compliant with the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme?

UQ is aware of its obligations under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS). The University considers that it has complied with its obligations, and will continue to monitor those obligations, under the FITS.

It should be remembered that communication activities requiring registration under the FITS are those that are undertaken, solely or substantially, for the purpose of political or government influence. The University does not consider that the activities of the Institute in the agreement fall within the type of activities requiring registration under the FITS.

As we renegotiate the agreement governing the Confucius Institute, compliance with FITS will be front of mind, as will the University’s commitment to institutional autonomy and academic freedom.

Why was UQ’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj AC, a consultant on Hanban’s committee?

Hanban, an affiliation of the Chinese Ministry of Education, invited Professor Høj to be a non-paid consultant on 12 November 2013. His appointment was included on the Vice-Chancellor’s public biography and publicised on UQ News.

The position allowed the Vice-Chancellor to stress the importance of operating relationships in accordance with established Australian institutional values and procedures. These views were received and debated constructively.

Professor Peter Høj resigned from Hanban late last year.

Why did UQ appoint  the Chinese Consul-General to an unpaid Honorary position?

The appointment of Honorary Professor and Adjunct Professor title holders is common practice in universities.

In the past three years, UQ has appointed more than 260 professorial title holders. Such title holders include current and former members of the diplomatic corp. The role of title holders is to strengthen UQ’s position as a high-quality globally engaged and informed university.

Dr Xu’s nomination as an Adjunct Professor was made by UQ’s School of Languages and Cultures, and he was offered the title earlier this month, until the end of December 2021. The University has no plans for Dr Xu to teach.