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Rising Tensions on University Campuses Worldwide

The past few months have witnessed heightened tensions on university campuses worldwide, as pro-Beijing demonstrators clashed with supporters of the Hong Kong protests. In late July, a sit-in staged by Hong Kong students at the University of Queensland in Australia to show solidarity with pro-democracy protestors back home turned violent when pro-Beijing students showed up and began to rip up placards and blast China’s national anthem through speakers. A week later, similar conflicts happened at the University of Auckland in New Zealand: three male Chinese students argued with a female student from Hong Kong in front of the Lennon Wall on campus, and as their confrontation escalated, one of the male students shoved the female student to the ground. Meanwhile, the pro-Hong Kong Lennon Wall at Simon Fraser University in Canada was repeatedly vandalised, with posts being torn down, tarnished, or covered by rival messages. In this case, the student society at the university decided to install a mobile Lennon Wall to help counter bullying and harassment. More recently, conflicts emerged at Columbia University in the United States, where pro-Beijing demonstrators holding China’s national flag assembled at a lecture hall in which pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong were scheduled to deliver speeches. Following the conclusion of the speeches, two Chinese people stood up and started to sing China’s national anthem. The escalating student clashes on campus have deepened concerns about China’s influence in Western universities. Amid such concerns, in mid-September the student union of Monash University in Australia banned foreign students from running in its election seemingly to avoid the council being controlled by a group of mostly international Chinese students—a move that several commentators hailed as racist. After backlash the election was cancelled altogether. NLiu

(Sources: ABC News 1; ABC News 2; New York Times; South China Morning Post 1; South China Morning Post 2; The Age; The Guardian)

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