Bilingual chants filled Eastern Avenue this afternoon, with a crowd of up to 40 students congregating outside Fisher Library to reject an increasing tide of racism on campus.
Carrying an assorted set of mini flags: Chinese, Australian, Torres Strait, Aboriginal, they marched down to the F23 Building — the home of University administration.
Alongside students were activists from the Education Action Group (EAG), Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) and executives of the SRC and SUPRA.
In his speech, outgoing SRC President Jacky He denounced the “global media’s insolence and hostility towards Chinese students,” labelling a recent Four Corners investigation into foreign interference on university campuses as “bloody racist” in depicting Chinese people alongside an ominous score.
That episode was labelled “hawkish” and “one-sided” by staff and students after it aired.
“Leave us alone. We are just here to study,” He told the crowd, summoning an activist persona rarely seen during his presidential term.
He was a senior figure within the Panda faction, a student bloc representing Chinese international students on the SRC, before he announced his retirement from student politics earlier this month.
Panda’s involvement in today’s protest signified a different direction for a faction that has historically shied away from activist stances with its candidates instead opting for service-oriented election promises like free food and electric scooters.
Four Corners was not alone in receiving flak from student representatives.
He also targeted News Corp masthead News.com.au as well as the Sydney Morning Herald for its framing of Chinese students as spies.
“Chinese international students and their parents pay $42,000 a year trying to come here for a good education, not to engage in any fraud or spying activities,” He said.
“We support speech freedom and academic freedom, yes we support and respect the intellectual property rights of academics and condemn those who have breached the above.”
ACAR Co-Convenor Ellie Wilson told Honi that posters advertising today’s anti-racism rally were torn down within 12 hours.
“Chinese students have frequently been targeted by news media and painted as brainwashed spies who pose a genuine threat to Australian society.”
“Chinese students are not homogenous; we are people, we have the power to think for ourselves. We’re just students.”
ACAR is currently developing a support group over Facebook and WeChat that allows students who have been harassed to contact others.
“We see this as an important step in making students feel safe,” Wilson told Honi.
SRC Education Officers Jesse Xu and James Newbold said that campus had seen a prevailing culture of racism this year.
“This involves the celebration of colonisers and marginalisation of First Nations peoples voices; this involves the often whitewashed university curricula which is being pushed even further by the Ramsay Centre; and it involves the everyday racism faced daily by regular students, with whom the EAG stands in solidarity.”
Also at the rally were members of the Trotskyist Platform, last seen bearing Chinese flags at a pro-Hong Kong rally in August.
Asian students were targeted by racial abuse earlier this month and a Chinese student was punched and spat on.
A University spokesperson told Honi that it remains committed to ensuring an inclusive community.
“Racist or discriminatory behaviour will not be accepted on our campus.”