UQ student could face contempt action

University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou says he's been threatened with contempt action.
University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou says he's been threatened with contempt action.

A student activist who led protests against the Chinese Communist Party claims the University of Queensland has directed a top-tier law firm to threaten him with contempt of court.

Drew Pavlou said his lawyer Mark Tarrant received a letter from Clayton Utz, representing UQ, which outlined plans to initiate a new contempt of court claim against him.

The confidential letter, dated June 16, was received by the 21-year-old Brisbane student on Wednesday and has been seen by AAP.

"I read it as a threat to intimidate me into silence, but unfortunately they haven't figured out that doesn't work against me," Mr Pavlou told AAP.

"It's just absurd - the case was dying down and there was no media ... but for some reason they wanted to pour jet fuel on the issue by threatening me with imprisonment. It's so illogical and self-destructive."

Mr Pavlou said he feared a contempt of court action could result in a maximum three-year prison sentence.

"It's pretty scary when you're threatened with imprisonment," he said.

"I'm just 21, I don't have the resources to fight a case like this."

AAP on Wednesday approached both UQ and Clayton Utz for comment.

A UQ spokeswoman said the institution was "unable to comment on an individual student matter".

Mr Pavlou in June appealed a decision by the university's disciplinary board for him to be banned from studying at UQ for two years.

At the time UQ chancellor Peter Varghese said he remained an enrolled student, with no action being taken on his suspension while the appeal was being heard.

Mr Pavlou faced the disciplinary hearing over 11 allegations of misconduct, detailed in a confidential 186-page document.

Earlier this month the arts and philosophy student revealed he is claiming $3.5 million in damages, alleging "deceit, conspiracy, harassment, defamation (and) breach of contract" by the university.

He told AAP on Wednesday he withdrew from all classes last week due to stress relating to his expulsion case, but has yet to receive updates from UQ regarding his appeal or damages claim.

"It's telling that their first response to my Supreme Court filing was to threaten me with imprisonment," Mr Pavlou said.

Mr Pavlou previously said the allegations related to his on-campus activism in support of Hong Kong and criticism of the CCP.

A university spokeswoman in May rejected claims the disciplinary hearing was a free speech issue and said the institution's policies were "not driven by politics".

UQ has faced media scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university.

The institution is also home to one of Australia's many Confucius Institutes - Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.

Australian Associated Press