An Australian activist running for a Senate seat in Queensland triggered chaos when he showed up with a “F*ck Xi Jinping” sign at a shopping strip in Sydney’s northwest on Saturday.
Drew Pavlou, 20, who leads the Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance, quickly drew an angry crowd at the predominantly-Asian area, as seen in a 49-second video posted on Twitter.
At least three people are seen yelling expletives at Pavlou in the video, which he said is incomplete and “doesn’t show the worst parts of the assault because it was chaotic.”
Pavlou said Chriscoveries, the online moniker of protest documenter Chris de Bruyne, covered the scene and was put in a “bear hug” before he was assaulted himself.
Police arrived at the scene to control the escalating chaos. Pavlou said he then went to the police station to make an assault statement.
The aspiring senator described the mob as “Chinese ultranationalists.” As he had done in the video, he defended his stunt on the grounds of free speech.
“My point is a simple one — I should be able to insult a dictator like Xi Jinping in my own country without being physically assaulted and attacked. Australia is a democracy and we should be free to insult any leader no matter how coarsely,” Pavlou wrote.
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“No way I would have been surrounded by 50 people and physically assaulted if I held up a sign saying ‘F*ck Scott Morrison’ in Sydney. Why should Chinese ultranationalists get a free pass to assault people in Australia if someone insults Xi Jinping?”
Pavlou was in Sydney to support Kyinzom Dhongdue, his party’s Tibetan-heritage candidate for the seat of Bennelong. Tibetans have allegedly been subjected to human rights violations by the Chinese Communist Party.
Pavlou’s actions drew mixed reactions on Twitter.
“‘It’s a free country,’ summarising why they are here and not in China,” one user wrote. Another commented: “Asians are getting assaulted across the west because of inflammatory actions like yours.” “This is the thing, I don’t understand why these Chinese ultranationalists are living in Australia,” another noted. “They should go back to defend their beloved country. Leave their spots to someone who deserves the human rights and freedom!” Journalist Andy Boreham, who has been labeled by Twitter as “China-affiliated state media,” offered another translation of Pavlou’s sign. “For anyone interested, the sign doesn’t say ‘F**k Xi Jinping,’ it says ‘Xi Jinping, f**k your mother.’ This Pavlova [sic] guy is purposefully misleading his followers because he knows most average people will disagree with such language about anyone’s mother, no matter who it is,” Boreham wrote.
In the latest development, Pavlou said New South Wales police are now planning to charge him over the incident. However, he said he still does not know what he’s being charged with.
“It has been more than 24 hours since NSW Police first called me to tell me detectives were investigating me and would likely be charging me over my protest against Xi Jinping in Sydney. Yet STILL I don’t know what I am being charged with. Appalling intimidation tactic,” Pavlou wrote.
The NSW Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), one of Australia’s leading human rights organizations, said using the swear word “f*ck” in a political statement is not considered offensive.
“The police should certainly tell you what you’ve been charged with. We don’t think it’s offensive to use the word f*ck in a political statement,” the organization tweeted. In February, Pavlou shared a video that showed a Chinese student in Brisbane taking down posters referring to the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre.