In another display of the tensions rising between Hong Kong and Chinese students on university campuses, a mural of sticky notes and photos adorning the New Law Building Annexe was removed by two Chinese students earlier this week.
These murals, which have come to be known as “Lennon Walls”, are used by many Hong Kong students as a symbol of resistance against the proposed Hong Kong Extradition Bill. They have been accompanied by numerous protests across campuses, including a ‘Free Hong Kong’ protest at the University of Sydney last week.
The wall in the Law Building featured printed images of the protests happening across Hong Kong and in Australia. A series of now-iconic coloured post-it notes surrounded these images, displaying messages with pro-democratic, anti-police and anti-government sentiment, such as “Bring Down Carrie Lam.” The mural itself encouraged engagement with a note suggesting that onlookers “Stand with Hong Kong [by] leaving a message of solidarity.”
A University of Sydney spokesperson told Honi that the university “does not condone the removal of Lennon Walls on campus and ha[s] made clear that displays set up by our students are welcome.”
The dismantling of Lennon Walls appears to be becoming a trend on campus. This incident is the third known case of a Lennon Wall being removed at the University. Last month, a similar mural was taken down on Eastern Avenue by a group of Mandarin-speaking Chinese students. One of those students was identified as current SRC co-Education Officer Jingrui Xu, who is paid close to $13,000 by the SRC to mobilise student protests and movements. In the same week, a Lennon Wall which had been created in the Graffiti Tunnel was found binned.
The removals have come in light of fears that clashes may arise between pro-Beijing and anti-extradition protesters. A confrontation between the two groups at the University of Queensland earlier in the year was subject to significant media attention. At the University of Technology Sydney, campus security was assigned to monitor the Lennon Wall.
As tensions between these groups continue to escalate, a wave of sinophobia has also become apparent on campus. Popular Facebook page ‘Usyd Rants’, a platform for anonymous posts related to the University, has featured numerous racist and xenophobic remarks in relation to Chinese international students. Additionally, the federal government recently announced its ‘taskforce into foreign interference’, which was described by SRC President Jacky He as increasing “phobia towards Chinese students”.
Numerous people have also questioned the outrage over Lennon Wall removals, noting that the practice of removing posters appears to be commonplace among political groupings on campus.
The university spokesperson addressed this, telling Honi, “students have a long history of using the campus for political debate and protest — including putting up and removing posters on political issues — and we are committed to respecting their right to express their views in this manner.”
Honi reached out to SRC President Jacky He and Sydney University Law Society President Jeremy Chan, but did not receive comment in time for publication.