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WHO PAYS THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE: Sydney Uni takes Beijing loot, bans Dalai Lama from premises


Just as the federal government announced cutbacks to University funding, Sydney Uni’s administration, which takes millions from the Chinese government, has shafted a student-organised visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama has previously been a strong critic of the Beijing regime, of its occupation of Tibet and is still seen as a symbol of Tibetan autonomy.

Beijing’s “Confucius Institute” is listed as a “stakeholder” of the Sydney Uni’s China Studies Centre, and is believed to have provided millions of dollars of funding for the facility.

Sydney Uni has competed vigorously for funding, from both Canberra and Beijing, against the ANU’s similar set-up.

A senior US academic, sceptical about the pro-Beijing aspects of the operations of the Confucius Institute, has argued:

“Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist Party and which is not subject to scholarly review.”

Another worried academic explained Beijing’s money comes with strings attached:

“There is a whole list of proscribed topics,” said June Teufel Dreyer, who teaches Chinese government and foreign policy at the University of Miami. “You’re told not to discuss the Dalai Lama — or to invite the Dalai Lama to campus. Tibet, Taiwan, China’s military buildup, factional fights inside the Chinese leadership — these are all off limits.”

Sydney Uni’s China Studies Centre website boasts that in addition to its academic role that it “acts as an informed voice in Australia-China relations.”

UPDATE: The University administration denies banning the Dalai Lama, despite emails obtained by the ABC that show otherwise, they will now be under considerable public pressure to lift the ban and allow him to address students and the wider University community.

UPDATE: The Herald Sun’s James Campbell put all of this very well indeed:

Uni echoes with Chinese whispers

How could it possibly be in the best interests of researchers ‘across the university’ that a 77-year old Buddhist monk not speak on campus?

DURING the lifespan of the Soviet Union, there was always good fun to be had accusing Left-wingers of being on the Communist payroll or, in the more colourful language of those days, in receipt of “Moscow gold”. In some cases the charges were false, in others they were true, as we later found out after the USSR shut up shop in 1991. Either way, back in those more ‘‘innocent’’ times the accusation was always met with fierce denials.

Which brings me to the strange case of the Dalai Lama’s aborted visit to Sydney University. This week the ABC reported that the Tibetan spiritual leader had been invited to speak there in June on the subject of “why education matters”. Nothing there, you would probably think, that would concern the authorities of Sydney University.

Well think again. Sophie Bouris, a PhD student and organiser of the event, told the ABC she had been informed the university’s logo could not be used, no media and Tibetans could be there, no marketing could be done offcampus, and there were to be no external students present.

On April 2 the event was cancelled. From an email published by the ABC, it appears that university’s vice-chancellor Michael Spence was involved in the decision.

“Thank you so much for your skill in dealing with this situation so effectively and in the best interests of researchers across the university,” he wrote to the Director of the University’s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights after the Dalai Lama was dumped. “I think that the negotiated solution meets all the concerns.”

A negotiated solution to what exactly? What concerns did the visit raise? How could it possibly be in the best interests of researchers “across the university” that a 77-year old Buddhist monk not speak on campus?

One suggested answer came from the Greens Party, one of whose NSW MPs found himself in a role in Australian political life traditionally assigned to the DLP — namely impugning someone’s integrity by accusing them of being on the payroll of the Reds.

“Sydney University has developed extremely close ties with the Chinese government, which part funds the Confucius Institute and hosts exchanges including numerous visits from the vice-chancellor,” said Dr John Kaye MP. “It appears that even the risk of damaging these ties and the money they bring to the university is enough for management to compromise its reputation.”

Observing from the distance of Melbourne (of which university, by the way, the Dalai Lama holds an honorary doctorate of laws), it struck me that the most interesting thing about this row was how little effort the university put into hiding the fact that its interest in getting rid of this turbulent monk was motivated by its close ties to a tyranny.

As far as I can find, no one from the university has disavowed the email of Dr Spence (paid $911,575 in 2011) and the public reasons for binning the Dalai Lama were utterly feeble and contradictory.

First, it said it never received any official request to host the visit. Since when did universities require “official requests” from departments or students to host visitors?

As I recall it, campuses are full of people coming and going and giving talks all the time without the big-wigs in the administration paying the slightest notice.

Then they said it would be university holidays in June, and most students would be away.

To which I would answer: Who cares? Those who wanted to be there would no doubt turn up.

Later in the week they said the visit had actually been moved at the Dalai Lama’s request.

Which is hard to square with earlier statement to the ABC that “the Dalai Lama’s office agreed to an alternative proposal for him to address a wider group of students from across a number of universities in the city, including from the University of Sydney”.

At least back in the good old days, taking Moscow’s gold always met with screams of denial. Beijing’s gold seems to be a different matter.

As for the Dalai Lama, the University of Cambridge welcomed him this week without any fuss.


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  1. Sydney Uni has sold our fundamental principles & basic human rights to the Chinese Communist Party. What a shame..Communist Sydney Uni now

    Posted by Tenzin | April 18, 2013, 9:53
  2. Andie agrees with the Greens.

    End times.

    Posted by Rich Torbay | April 18, 2013, 10:31
  3. Is the university run by the Liberal Party.

    Posted by Argus Tuft | April 18, 2013, 11:20
  4. Just wrong. Very wrong

    Posted by $$$ | April 18, 2013, 11:42
  5. Australia, the 19th province of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

    Posted by Welcome to Mao Communism | April 18, 2013, 11:44
  6. Simple the Fed gov just has to say you can keep the millions from China or the 10s of millions from the Fed Gov.
    Choose wisely.

    Posted by Scott | April 18, 2013, 11:48
  7. They have not sold out Australians as bedly as Glyn Davis and his Melbourne Uni retirement home for corrupt Labor politicians.

    Posted by Uni's are destroying Australia | April 18, 2013, 12:14
  8. Shame on Sydney Uni. We had enough of you

    Posted by Kalsang | April 18, 2013, 13:38
  9. Appalling – it is ANZAC day next week and Sydney UNI is spitting on the graves of the men and women who died – so such institutions could have the right to freedom of speech – and to be told by another nation that clearly has contempt for what Australians stand and died for and for a university to of all places to kowtow to this – I feel ashamed to be an Australian today.

    Posted by Barry Whitelaw | April 18, 2013, 14:44
  10. As custodians of intellectual endeavour and the search for truth, Universities should never accept funds in the areas of social sciences and the arts that come with strings attached as to the aspects that may or may not be researched or taught.

    There is an argument that in the area of the basic physical sciences, a donor may specify areas to which the funding may be directed but this should never preclude other sources of funds being used in those areas.

    Stronger rules of propriety should be applied to matters of professional opinion or values such as politics, history, literature, classics, philosophy, languages, culture etc. Unlike the basic physical sciences, the direction of funding should not be part of the donation.

    While I know many people are enthralled by the Dalai Lama, I am somewhat circumspect in my support for his crusade to return Tibet to a semi-benevolent theocratic dictatorship in lieu of a kleptocratic asset exploiting communist autocracy.

    The Chinese have managed to occupy the territory of Tibet with enough settlers to adjust the population balance in their favour. In a few more years, any referendum held on the future of Tibet will return a vote in favour of unification with China. This will be the terrible consequence of the flight of so many of the monks and supporters of the Dalai Lama across the border so they will be unable to vote.

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | April 18, 2013, 15:13
  11. Quislings the lot of them!
    Did you also notice that the university (small u) has directly involved its Institute of “demokracy and Human lights”….. not funny for tibetans at all.

    Posted by Peng Li Ang | April 18, 2013, 16:51
  12. I love Anzac Day it is always a great at the end of the day to empty my bladder or bowels on the local war memorial.

    Posted by anon | April 18, 2013, 23:34
  13. Such a fine example of biased behaviour from the University of Shame.
    August 2012 they host a chinese government talk on “the selection of the Dalai Lama…” (from an imperial chinese perspective, naturally) but then cancel the actual person.
    “Poor fellow my country” is more apt now than ever.

    Posted by Peng Li Ang | April 19, 2013, 23:56
  14. “I love Anzac Day it is always a great at the end of the day to empty my bladder or bowels on the local war memorial.”
    I hope an Aussie catches you in the act. You sound like a typical treasonous academic/journo/pollie.

    Posted by fuck you | April 22, 2013, 12:32