Chinese students at Australian universities may soon be protected from Beijing’s spying under new cyber security laws.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security said university leaders were not doing enough to protect students who fear for their families under pressure from China.
During Friday’s hearing, committee chairman Sen. James Patterson said universities have a legal duty to look after the welfare of students and a moral responsibility to uphold academic freedom.
“If they are being spied on by their fellow students or others, and you are not taking steps to protect them from it, you are letting them down,” he said.
The incidents were repeated at the University of Technology Sydney, where students were threatened with silence by other students on social media.
Luke Sheahy, executive director of the Australian Technology Network of Universities, said his group values freedom of speech, student safety and open institutions.
“It’s deeply concerning for us,” Sheahy said.
However, he said it was difficult to intervene because students operated their own networks across universities to communicate and coordinate the harassment of their targets.
Patterson cited a recent report by Human Rights Watch that revealed how universities failed to protect the freedoms of Chinese students and academics who criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The report revealed the various incidents and views of 24 students and 22 academics and their experience in Australia under Beijing’s supervision.
“Australian universities rely on the fee that international students bring in blindly about concerns about harassment and surveillance by the Chinese government and its proxies,” said report author Sophie McNeill.
In its opening statement, Innovative Research Universities (IRU) said that universities have played an important role in the national infrastructure.
IRU Executive Director Conor King said, “Cybersecurity targets an area of greater concern where the university’s commitment to openness and information sharing to advance knowledge is against actors who would disrupt our operations. ” “The disruption to our operations could cause significant damage if prolonged.”
The newly proposed laws would include universities as a critical national infrastructure and make it mandatory to report cyber attacks promptly.
You contributed to this article.