China Chills Free Speech at AUT

Free Speech Coalition
Foreign influence on AUT chills free speech
Dr David Cumin

AUT University’s cancellation of a commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre betrays the freedoms of students and contradicts the purpose of a university.

AUT’s claim that the cancellation of the peaceful commemorative event was due to the Queen’s Birthday Holiday is a poor excuse.

OIA requests have shown that the Chinese consulate commended the University for its decision to cancel the booking. Many AUT students will be appalled to see the university play lapdog to a foreign regime.

The participants of the Tiananmen Square protest were students peacefully protesting a violent regime. AUT dishonours their memory by silencing another protest focused on the same illiberal government.

Like all publicly-funded universities, AUT has a purpose ‘to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions’, as per sections 161 of the Education Act 1989. Instead, AUT’s attitude towards free speech is beginning to look like that of the Chinese state. These are not New Zealand values; these are despotic values.

Bodies of dead civilians lie among crushed bicycles near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. AP Photo

It is suspicious that these events are similar to the University of Auckland’s cancellation of screenings of a documentary critical of the Confucius Institute after the consulate’s outcry. New Zealand university students and patrons deserve better.

Images of the protest on the Internet have been censored in China. A Demonstrator confronts a line of People’s Liberation Army tanks on Chang’an Avenue, Beijing, during demonstrations for democratic reform on Tiananmen Square. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Magnum
40%
×