SYDNEY, Australia—A local court in Sydney has thrown out all charges brought by the NSW Police against a 23-year-old China activist, dismissing two charges in two days.
NSW Police accused activist Drew Pavlou of failure to obey a move-on order from officers last May when scuffles broke out at a protest he had organised. Police also accused Pavlou of offensive behaviour for holding an anti-Xi Jinping sign in late April.
The defence’s lawyer, Tony Morris KC, told the court that his client had refused the move-on order, believing he had the right to express himself freely in a peaceful protest and that the aggression was not coming from his client but from elements in the crowd.
Pavlou had told officers that the only way he would leave was if he was arrested. Police then took him into custody.
Magistrate Laurie Robertson ruled in favour of Pavlou after hearing arguments and reviewing police camera footage from attending officers.
“The accused, when he was given a move-on direction, indicated he was not going to do so,” Robertson said.
“He remained with the police officers. He did not rejoin the group.
“There is no case to answer.”
The section reads, “A person is not guilty of an offence under this section unless it is established that the person persisted, after the direction concerned was given, to engage in the relevant conduct or any other relevant conduct.”
She acknowledged the defence’s argument that NSW Police had exceeded their powers of arrest.
The decision prematurely ended what was scheduled to be a three-day trial.
Pavlou called the court’s decision “a great win for free speech in Australia.”
‘Offensive Behaviour’ Charge WithdrawnA day earlier, on March 13, police prosecutor John Marsh withdrew an “offensive behaviour” charge against Pavlou after a police mandarin translator admitted Pavlou’s sign was a widely-used slogan known among Chinese as the “national scolding” or “national curse.”
The case was sparked when some Chinese in the Chinese ethnic hub of Eastwood reacted aggressively to the sign during Pavlou's campaign event for his new political party on April 30, 2022.
Pavlou’s Taiwanese friend, who was present on the day, told The Epoch Times that she had made the sign for Pavlou.
It read, “Xi Jinping [expletive] your mother,” in simplified Chinese characters—a slogan widely used by young protesters criticising Xi and China’s ruling communist party for their human rights violations.
Online, Drew was criticised by both Chinese and Australian media for being “anti-China.”
“I have to absolutely reject the idea that I’m anti-China," Pavlou told The Epoch Times outside the court. "I'm actually pro-China because if you’re anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP), you’re pro-China.
“The Chinese Communist Party has killed 50 million Chinese people over the past century; they’ve tortured hundreds of millions more. Xi Jinping’s own family members were tortured; he had a sister [who] was driven to suicide. This is how brutal the regime is; even the top leadership, they’ve all suffered as a result of it.
“I'm speaking up for innocent people,” he said of his anti-CCP activism.
Pavlou was a Senate candidate at the time of the incident and was in Eastwood supporting his party’s lower house candidate for Bennelong, Kyinzom Dhongdue.
One man told Pavlou he was “inciting violence” with his sign and told him, “[Expletive] your mother.”
NSW Police were called by a member of the community and arrived at the scene after Shuang Zhang, 48, physically assaulted a cameraman filming the incident. Zhang also grabbed Pavlou’s sign and stomped on it.
For the incident, Pavlou was charged by NSW Police with “offensive behaviour” for the sign, and Zhang was charged with common assault over his contact with the cameraman.
“They’ve actually dismissed both charges, so it proves there was never any case against me. I was unfairly and unlawfully arrested."
He said he would now be considering a potential lawsuit against NSW Police for "unlawful arrest."
He criticised NSW Police for disrespecting the court and Australian taxpayers by pursuing the cases against him. “There are very serious crimes taking place out there in the community, and instead, they’ve waste everyone's time and money."
NSW Police were directed to reimburse Morris and Pavlou for their expenses to attend court. Morris said he was offering Drew his legal assistance on a pro bono basis and would not be charging the taxpayer. The estimated cost for the defence was $6,500.
Special Responsibility to 'Talk About Human Rights in China'
Pavlou said he devotes his time to China activism to stand up for those suffering oppression at the hands of the CCP who can’t have their day in a free court.
“I think we have a special responsibility in Australia—where our largest trading partner is China—to talk about human rights in China. And the government has tried very hard not to talk about these issues because no one wants to go out and offend this government because it's so powerful and it will go after people.
“[The CCP have] gone after me, there’s been death threats against my family for four years. In London, they set up a fake bomb threat allegation against me."
The CCP has a history of framing individual dissidents and groups it considers a threat to its ideological legitimacy—including adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual practise, who follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance; as well as Tibetans and Uyghurs for their religious faiths.
"I've encountered a lot of opposition, I’ve had to make sacrifices. But the sacrifices I’ve made have been absolutely nothing compared to the sacrifices of my Uyghur friends, my Tibetan friends."
"So I just try and use the fact that I’ve got privilege to fight for them," Pavlou said.
"Not many Australians have been willing to go out there and be activists on this issue and put their own neck on the line and risk being arrested. And I'm willing to do that because I believe we're all human beings, we all deserve a chance in life, and we all deserve freedom—that’s why I do it.
"I’m so thankful for my Chinese friends. I’ve had amazing support from Chinese people all around the world on this case."
Morris said of Pavlou's critics: “If this was 1943 and someone said to Drew, ‘What do you think of Adolf Hitler?’ and you say ‘He’s evil,’ that doesn't mean you're anti-German. It doesn't mean you hate Germans or you regard them as inferior people or something. It just means you don't approve of the regime that's in charge.”
“And it's the same with China. And the same you can say about North Korea, or about Russia or Iran, any of these countries,” he said.
“It's a love for the people of those countries that makes you say: They should have it better; they shouldn't have these evil people running their countries.”