Tensions rise as Chinese government’s influence infiltrates Aussie universities

AUSTRALIAN educators are increasingly coming under attack from Chinese students, raising concerns their government’s influence is permeating our universities.

The students have been openly complaining about Western teaching methods and ideas, and publicly demanding apologies or changes to how subjects are explored.

The trend has raised concerns that the ideology of China’s Communist Party is weaving its way into Australian academic teaching through overseas students.

Chinese students have even released footage online – filmed secretly in classes – of professors teaching classes that contradict Chinese ruling party ideology.

As a result of the critical videos published on Chinese websites and social media, some students received apologies from the academics.

Last week, a Chinese University of Newcastle student posted a YouTube video of him arguing with a professor who referred to Taiwan and Hong Kong as independent countries. “You are making us feel uncomfortable,” the student is heard saying to business professor Nimay Khaliani. “You have to consider all the students.”

The video was published on several Chinese websites and provoked a backlash from readers, with Newcastle University eventually contacting China’s consulate-general to resolve the matter.

Days before the Newcastle University incident, a Chinese website reported that students at the University of Sydney were outraged at IT professor Khimji Vaghjiani displaying a map showing three regions contested by China and India as being part of India.

Mr Vaghjiani said in a statement. “Over 18 months ago, I used an out-of-date map, downloaded from the internet … I was unaware that the map was inaccurate and out-of-date. This was a genuine mistake and I regret any offence this may have caused.”

The communist party-owned newspaper Global Times later wrote: “The China-India border dispute broke out in Australia, and China won!”

There was also controversy when the Cambridge University Press agreed to the censorship of an academic journal for China, removing 300 articles. On August 21, it said it had reinstated them.

And back June, an academic at the University of Sydney said the Chinese consulate had asked the instiution to reconsider holding a forum on the Tiananmen Squareprotests.

The Lowy Institute’s East Asian director Merriden Varrall told news.com.au there was “certainly an increase” in the “willingness of Chinese students to stand together and push back against what they perceive as injustice” in Australia.

“I don’t think it’s about the Chinese embassy saying do this, act in this way. I don’t think that’s out of the question, but it reflects students’ beliefs.”

These young people have been brought up indoctrinated into certain beliefs that flatter China’s government, according to Dr Varrall, who said she was regularly told by student to change her methods while teaching in Beijing.

She said Chinese students were not taught to engage with critical thinking and interpretation, and often struggled to question ingrained beliefs. “After Tiananmen Square in 1989, China really ramped up the ideology,” said Dr Varrall. “It creates a view of the world all Chinese young people share.”