International students at one of Australia’s leading universities had been banned from running in campus elections, a pre-emptive strike that reportedly thwarted political ambitions of Chinese students.
Ahead of next week’s elections, student leaders at Monash University’s Caulfield campus in Melbourne passed a rule requiring officials to render a minimum service of 22 hours per week, conflicting with the legal eligibility of international students for work.
International students on Australian student visas are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week, which means more than half of the campus’ student population cannot possibly contest the elections.
Jack Guo, a candidate from the international group and president of the university’s Chinese association, slammed the ban as a “biased, racist decision.”
“We think this is a biased, racist decision against Chinese students and other international students. There has been no proper funding for us [Monash Chinese Student Association] for 18 months — we get no support from the union … we feel there is a bias against Chinese students. There should be some international students in the union to have our voices heard,” Guo said, according to The Age.
Interestingly, international students make up 62% of the campus population, more than double Australia’s national average.
“These regulation changes are plainly an attack on international students, in particular Chinese, who simply want a voice in their representative body,” said Alex Wang, an officer in the National Union of Students.
The ban comes amid increasing concerns of Chinese Communist Party influence at Australian universities. In July, a pro-Hong Kong rally at the University of Queensland ended up in chaos after pro-Beijing students arrived at the scene, blasted the Chinese national anthem and ripped up signs.
“I saw some of the anti-CCP organizers being punched and shoved onto the ground. I saw someone smash a drink against someone’s head and a security guard was bitten by one of the (pro-Beijing) protesters,” journalism student Nilsson Jones told news.com.au.
— Nilsson Jones (@nilssonjones_) July 24, 2019
A similar incident also occurred at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, which resulted in a female, pro-Hong Kong protester getting shoved to the ground.
“Hong Kong is a part of China! If you don’t like China, get out of China,” a male, pro-Beijing student told the protester. “You’re a f***ing stupid pig…”
To combat alleged Chinese Communist Party influence in local universities, Australia established a task force assessing foreign interference in the education sector, from cybersecurity risks to intellectual property theft, late last month.
“One of the things that the task force will be doing will be looking at security on our university campuses, to make sure that students can go about their business freely, and be able to express their views freely,” Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said, according to ABC News.
Following an internal trial and discussions with university executives, the Monash Student Union decided to cancel the election and drop its plan to ban international students from running.
In a statement posted on Facebook, it explained that the move was not designed to exclude foreign students, but rather, reflect the workload required for the position.
“MONSU Caulfield has made the decision to cancel the current student election due to unforeseen circumstances. We have recognised the information regarding a minimum workload of 22 hours was unclear. The increase of the weekly time commitment was never designed to make any student in-eligible, instead it was in recognition that being a member of MONSU Caulfield is a considerable weekly commitment.”
The union vowed to clarify the required minimum weekly workload prior to the new election, which is yet to be rescheduled but would “ensure all students (international and domestic) are eligible to run [in].”
Featured Image via Facebook / Monash University Caulfield