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‘Left activists have forgotten what freedom of speech is’: Education Minister slams students for pulling China story

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has attacked Sydney University’s student newspaper for taking down a report revealing academics’ links to the Chinese government, saying the move highlights the importance of protecting academic freedom and freedom of speech on campus.

Sydney University’s Honi Soit published a story on March 31 naming two professors in the engineering faculty whom it claimed were associated with “controversial Chinese government recruitment schemes” and had “collaborated with sanctioned Chinese universities” on potential military technology research.

Sydney University’s student newspaper Hon Soit has been in publication since 1929.

Sydney University’s student newspaper Hon Soit has been in publication since 1929.Credit:Dominic Lorimer

The online version was removed hours after publication and editors posted an apology to the academics, readers and the Chinese community on the paper’s Facebook page after they received negative feedback online.

The 10 editors of the student newspaper say they did not pull down the report because it was inaccurate or racist but because “directly naming those academics was negligent, particularly in the face of escalating Sinophobia and racism at the University of Sydney and in wider society”.

Mr Tudge said he did not have a chance to read the story before it was taken down, “but it doesn’t surprise me”.

“Left activists have forgotten what freedom of speech means in an era of woke culture. Certainly any claims that it was taken down to appease the Chinese Communist Party are deeply concerning,” he said.

“If anywhere should be a bastion of free speech and fiercely debating ideas, it is university campuses. We recently passed legislation to further strengthen protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech at Australia’s universities.”

In a statement, the editors of Honi Soit said the article was not removed to appease the CCP but “out of concern for the safety of academics mentioned in the article, against whom we made no allegations of personal wrongdoing”.

“The fact that federal ministers are commenting on stories they have not read, based on unfounded allegations made on Facebook, is absurd,” the editors said. “We maintain that nothing in the article was incorrect. At no time were we pressured by the university, or other individuals or groups, including the Chinese Communist Party or its supporters, in this decision. Speculation to the contrary is false and misleading.”

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