A peaceful vigil of Hong Kong students was attacked by Chinese nationalists today at the University of Queensland.  

The demonstration of about 100 primarily Hong Kong students staged a peaceful sit-in to support protesters fighting against the Chinese extradition law. They also voiced opposition to the Islamophobic treatment of Uyghurs held in concentration camps in Xinjiang.

The action was a brave act of defiance. A Uyghur student, who asked not to be identified, told Red Flag that the Chinese government has forced his family into camps. He says that his parents are now under house arrest as punishment for him leaving China. Several Hong Kong students wore masks to avoid recognition, fearing for the safety of their friends and family back home. 

During the speeches, 200 pro-China students, with a PA blaring the national anthem, pushed through the protest to physically disperse it. They carried signs reading “China’s Hong Kong” and chanted nationalist slogans. One student threw punches at a protest organiser, chipping his tooth. 

The pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters, who were joined by some mainland Chinese supporters, stood their ground and chanted “Free Hong Kong!” and “Free Uyghur!”

Following this stand-off, the Hong Kong students continued their vigil at a different location. They were followed by the Chinese nationalists. Up to 400 pro-China students surrounded the vigil of 150 Hong Kong students and their supporters. They demanded that the Hong Kong students apologise for hosting their protest. They responded: “We will not apologise!” 

After an hour’s stand-off, with a wall of police and security separating the groups, the pro-democracy protesters marched to a different location on the campus and said that they would be back. 

Hong Kong students at the university have previously called solidarity actions, drawing hundreds, with the protests in Hong Kong. This is the first time they faced an organised backlash from supporters of the Chinese government. 

Jack, a student from Hong Kong told Red Flag: “We want to condemn the actions by the Hong Kong police and the government and we want a full termination of the extradition law”.