By LAURA PLACELLA and NISHANT KULKARNI
Security staff shut down a vocal protest between pro-Hong Kong and pro-China demonstrators at Clayton Campus on Tuesday.
The local protest took place less than a week after a demonstration at The University of Queensland made headlines for turning violent.
The Victoria Hong Kong Tertiary Student Association organised the demonstration to oppose a controversial Hong Kong extradition law proposal, which has sparked protests globally and seen mass-demonstrations overrun the streets of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong extradition law was proposed in February, in response to a murder in Taiwan, after which the suspect fled to Hong Kong. Pro-Hong Kong demonstrators fear, if enacted, the extradition law would be used by China to extradite not just those wanted on criminal matters, but also political dissidents.
Protestors stood side by side, holding cardboard posters plastered with sticky notes and large text to form ‘Lennon Walls’.
"Lennon Wall" was a term given to the 10,000 post-it notes scrawled with pro-democracy messages and stuck to a wall in central Hong Kong in 2014 during the Umbrella Movement, where protesters called for more transparent elections.
While the Clayton-based demonstration began peacefully, it descended into verbal attacks when pro-China supporters arrived, triggering security officers to shut the protest down.
Protester Joyce Cheng posted footage of the demonstration and a photo of the officers intervening to Monash StalkerSpace.
“A group of Chinese students came and harassed us, playing the Chinese national anthem and yelling at us,” Ms Cheng said.
“They have misunderstood our motivations thinking that we are promoting Hong Kong independence when in fact none of us has mentioned anything about that.”
Another witness said at least one pro-Hong Kong activist verbally abused the opposing group, calling them “Zhi-Na”, a derogatory term used during WWII's Japanese Invasion to humiliate China.
The pro-Hong Kong demonstrators congregated both in the Learning and Teaching Building and near Campus Centre, with a plan to sit-in for four hours.
Mr Zhou, who is a Chinese international student and did not want his first name used, said he came across a Lennon Wall as he walked across campus.
“There was this group of people standing there holding slogans. There were around 10 people when my friend and I first arrived,” he said.
Mr Zhou said he became “involved” and had a “relatively peaceful discussion for about an hour”.
“I communicated with the protestors and asked them what they think about these kind of things.
“Everyone has different opinions and it’s a good thing.”
At the University of Queensland last Wednesday, violence erupted when pro-China students tore down pro-Hong Kong banners and threw punches.
The Victoria Hong Kong Tertiary Student Association advertised the Clayton protest on its Facebook page, but wrote the Queensland violence was “especially enraging”.
The Monash Chinese International Students' Association was contacted for comment, but did not respond.