About a dozen protestors have stormed a Sydney university to disrupt a speech being given by China’s ambassador to Australia.
Xiao Qian had just taken to the lectern at the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney on Friday morning when a number of demonstrations broke out.
One after the other, protesters could be seen walking through the audience, carrying signs with messages such as "free Tibet, free East Turkestan, free Hong Kong."
One woman was captured yelling, “stop the genocide,” and “Tibet remains colonised” while another accused China of cultural genocide against the Uyghurs, a minority ethnic group in China’s northwestern province.
While security surrounded the protesters as they repeatedly popped up throughout the speech, one guard could be heard asking them to leave the room, before all were escorted outside.
Rattled ambassador puts speech on hold
Throughout the ordeal, which lasted around 10 minutes, Mr Qian appeared flustered, at times pausing while the situation unfolded.
At one point he told the auditorium, “we have different views but they should be expressed in a way that is appropriate”.
"At least five protesters have repeatedly interrupted the beginning of a speech from China's Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian," the ABC's Foreign Affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic reported.
"Xiao Qian seemed slightly ruffled by the first protests but presses on."
Protesters fighting for human rights
Among the group of protesters was Drew Pavlou, a well-known anti-Chinese Communist Party activist.
He said the purpose of their demonstration at Friday's event, which he described as a "propaganda spectacle," was to disrupt Mr Qian's speech as much as possible.
"We accomplished that by getting about 10 activists to interrupt more than 10 times," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Mr Pavlou explained that their actions were for all the victims of the Chinese Communist Party regime who "don't have a voice".
"The Chinese ambassador wanted to talk about resetting relations, and we were there to remind Australians that there are people in concentration camps simply because of their religion," he said, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people who have disappeared into what China euphemistically calls re-education camps.
"We had to show Australia that there is another side to this regime, [and that] we shouldn't be begging for deeper business ties."
Ambassador poses prospect of reset in relations
After pausing while protesters were ejected, Mr Qian went on to deliver the remainder of his speech, in which he spoke about improving ties between China and Australia.
"The recent years of our relationship has been a difficult period, undeniably," he told the audience.
Nonetheless, he said relations between the two nations have great potential and bright prospects.
"This is the message that I brought with me from China."
In closing his address, however, Mr Qian made reference to the vast differences between the two nations.
"It should be no surprise to anyone that there are differences between countries, between China and Australia," he said.
"There are, undeniably, certain areas where China and Australia have certain views, and these are the areas where we should continue to conduct constructive dialogue."
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