Protesters with signs criticising how China treats the Uyghur people and the university’s decision to invite Xiao to speak kept interrupting the ambassador.
“People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of speech… this should not be welcomed,” the ambassador stated.
James Laurenson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute, which invited Xiao to campus, stated that the university “welcomes freedom of speech on campus… that right, however, does not extend to speaking over the top of invited guests.”
During the ambassador’s speech, security pulled one protester out of the room as she shouted, “The University of Technology cannot host a representative of a homicidal dictatorship.”
A member of the audience ripped the “Free Tibet, Free East Turkestan” placard from the hands of another protester.
China and Australia have been at odds for years as a result of Canberra’s crackdown on foreign meddling and demand for a probe into the origins of Covid-19, and Beijing’s response of sweeping economic restrictions.
In recent weeks, however, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles met with his Chinese counterpart at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. This was the first time that the two countries’ defence ministers had met in three years.