top of page

Drew Pavlou: Beijing’s Bête Noire Strikes Again

The Australian 23-year-old anti-CCP activist is stuck in the UK after charges were fabricated against him. He tells Bitter Winter this only makes him more determined.

by Ruth Ingram

August 8, 2022

Drew Pavlou, discussing his latest predicament with Bitter Winter in London. He spoke about his concerns about the future, and his determination to press on confronting Beijing’s human rights abuses, whatever it might cost.

Drew Pavlou, a young Australian on Beijing’s list of public enemies at number one, has added to his “crimes” by protesting outside its London embassy whilst on holiday in the U.K.

To punish this “demeanor” the embassy is said to have alerted London police of an email from Drew threatening to blow up the building. No sooner had the 23-year-old tried to hoist a Taiwan flag and glue his hand to the gate at Portland Place, than security arrived, handcuffed him in the stress position behind his back, and marched him off to the cells.

“You’re here for more than just glue,” replied an officer when Drew asked the reason for his arrest. He was shocked when after being held incommunicado for three hours he was eventually told the nature of his offence. He was alleged to have sent an email saying, “This is Drew Pavlou, you have until 12pm to stop the Uyghur genocide or I blow up the embassy with a bomb. Regards, Drew.”

He was held for a further 23 hours before being eventually released. Speaking to Bitter Winter this week in London, he strenuously denied the plot, saying, “This is insane,” and expressed shock and dismay after hearing that fake bomb scares carry a possible seven years prison sentence. “Why would I do this?” He asked. “Yes I protest and believe in direct action, but I believe in non-violent, peaceful protest.” He has still not been charged but has been bailed to surrender himself to the police on August 14th. His passport has been returned, but even so, he is advised against leaving the country.

Drew Pavlou’s bail form. No charges but advised not to leave the country.

This is not Drew’s first run in with the CCP, and he is convinced this is a ploy to silence his campaign to shame Beijing for its human rights abuses. As one of its most vehement critics since atrocities came to light against Hong Kong citizens, Tibetans and Uyghurs, Drew and his family have been subject to a consistent volley of social media trolling and abuse, none of which he says is true, and all of which he assumes has been generated by the Chinese state.

The story of his expulsion from the University of Queensland (UQ) was covered by Bitter Winter in May 2020, when, with barely six months to run of his degree course, he was expelled for two years for offending the Chinese state. Moved by CCP-inflicted suffering particularly in the Uyghur heartland and Hong Kong, he had organized a small protest rally on campus in July 2019. Numbers had grown to 60 by the end of the day, at which point his group was surrounded and attacked by around 500 pro-Chinese “patriots,” most of whom police later confirmed had been commandeered from outside.

The hot-headed, but ardent believer in free speech and democratic freedoms for the people of China, ignored university advice to go to ground, and refused to stay quiet. Subsequent protests, covered in detail in the Bitter Winter article, set him on a collision course with his university and the Chinese state, culminating in his suspension for two years, a sentence that was later reduced to six months.

His main complaint against UQ was, as he saw it, collusion with China over human rights abuses, and allowing itself to be browbeaten into silence in exchange for generous funding and a vast amount of Chinese student fees. which total twenty percent of the university’s income. UQ’s Confucius Institute is one of the main culprits, he says, and ensures the university is muzzled over every type of opposition.

Since 2019 he has become an ever-increasing thorn in the side of Beijing, protesting and speaking out wherever he thinks will have the greatest impact and airing on social media. Greatly moved as a child by stories of genocides, he told Bitter Winter of a vow he made to stand against the next genocide that “reared its ugly head.”

Partly, he says, due to his hot-blooded Greek-Cypriot nature and a strong stubborn streak he is becoming more provocative by the day. In June, Pavlou interrupted a speech by Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian, intended to mend trade relations. He was escorted out after accusing Mr. Qian of being a “pariah” and the Australian government in league with a “dictatorship committing genocide.”

At this year’s Wimbledon tennis final he was ejected again, this time for holding up a sign, daring to question the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, the retired Chinese tennis player whose allegations against a Communist Party official caused her to disappear.

Drew says that the CCP actions against his protests have “radicalized” him. “I was an anonymous student before 2019,” he said. “Now I am in the CCP cross hairs.” His determination to stand up for those who have been silenced in China and to speak against the injustices being meted out to Tibetans, Uyghur and Hongkongers, is growing.

The fight has become an obsession for this 23-year-old. Following his expulsion from UQ, he took a year out to form his own political party, the Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance, to run for Senate in Queensland. Putting forward five multi-national candidates fighting the Uyghur, Tibetan and Hong Kong corner, they succeeded in raising the profile of human rights in China with a series of stunts around the country designed to deliberately provoke.

He fields the opposition and personal attacks as par for the course but describes the past week in London as “one of the worst of his life.” He is stuck in the UK, with no return ticket and his money running out, waiting for the police to charge him or not. “They told me it could take months,” he said.

His final term has already started back in Brisbane and hopes to continue his run of straight “high distinctions” in his Philosophy, History, and English Literature major in order to graduate with honors, are dwindling. But despite setbacks and uncertainties he takes inspiration from Martin Luther King whose own direct action changed the world. He promises to push on and pursue his mission to expose China and those who collaborate through silence. He vows not to be gagged.

He continues to be amazed and perplexed that Beijing has fixated on him, as he says, “an absolute nobody.”

The Oxford Union, the domain of kings and presidents has invited him to speak in October. “Me?” He asks. “My father runs a fruit shop. Why little old me?” But he has accepted the challenge. He intends to urge the country’s future politicians, engineers, scientists, and thinkers to wake up over China. “The West has got it wrong about China,” he warns. “There is a new wave of authoritarianism sweeping the earth, and we must fight against dictatorship.” Imagining mistakenly that the superpower could be changed for the good, he added, “we are in fact on a collision course and must decouple.”


bottom of page