Drew Pavlou to return to Australia while still under police suspicion of Chinese embassy bomb hoax
London: Outspoken human rights activist Drew Pavlou has flown home to Australia after British police altered his bail arrangements while he remains suspected of issuing a bomb hoax against the Chinese Embassy in London.
Australian activist Drew Pavlou.Credit:Attila Csaszar
The 23-year-old from Brisbane, who was arrested and detained by Metropolitan police for more than 20 hours on July 21, says he is being framed over the fake threat which emerged after he staged a protest outside the Chinese embassy. Brandishing three flags—representing Taiwan and China’s oppressed Tibetan and Uyghur Muslim minorities— Pavlou also glued his hand to the front gate.
Police notified Pavlou’s legal team on Friday that they had relaxed his bail conditions, pending further enquiries, for him to return on October 21. The decision also lifts a ban on the University of Queensland student to leave Britain.
“The past four weeks have been the lowest point of my life,” Pavlou told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “I am so glad I can get home because I just don’t feel safe here in London.”
Pavlou, who has alienated even his some of his allies with a series of increasingly outrageous stunts in protest of Beijing’s human right record over the past two years, says he believes he “walked into a trap” .
“The whole thing is a complete stitch-up,” he said, ahead of boarding a Qantas flight home on Saturday afternoon. “It’s like they knew I was coming, they laid a trap and I walked right into it.”
He still faces the possibility of being charged for trespassing on diplomatic premises, criminal damage and communicating false information to make a bomb hoax – which carries a seven-year jail term.
An email, which was briefly shown to Pavlou while in police custody, was sent to the Embassy earlier that day from a [email protected] email address. Pavlou says he does have a Protonmail account, but that is not the one. However, the email prefix is identical to an account he has with gmail.
His British friend, Harry Allen, who had been filming the stunt, was also held by the police for around 24 hours and is being investigated on suspicion of also communicating false information to make a bomb hoax. Both men have had their devices seized.
Pavlou’s pro bono barrister, Michael Polak, said it was clear to any right-minded person that the Chinese authorities have “watched him” and “kind of fitted him up”. He said the Chinese Ambassador to Australia’s decision to mention Pavlou’s circumstances, unsolicited, during a speech in Canberra last week showed they were “goading” his client.
Drew Pavlou, left, and Max Mok show some of the shirts they had printed up ahead of the Australian Open in January with the slogan Where is Peng Shuai?Credit:AP
“They’ve done this against other activists, even myself,” Polak said. “I do lots of work in regard to Hong Kong and, as a high-profile thing we were looking into uncovering, they sent emails to every member of my chambers, telling them that I shouldn’t be a member of chambers, etc. Those emails were sent in the names of China sceptic professors, some from Australia, from UK. So it is a tactic Chinese authorities use.”
Polak, who represented Uighur activists in a legal action challenge to the British government’s decision to grant Huawei a role in 5G networks, said if Pavlou was to be treated fairly by police then investigators needed to look at the Chinese Embassy computer networks.
“We are pointing the finger at the Chinese Embassy. Now it’s very unlikely that the Chinese Embassy would allow the police to look at their systems. So, while we understand the police have to do their job, if it’s not something that is going to go anywhere, they should finish up the investigation as soon as possible.”
Pavlou claims his much-publicised series of protests and outspoken commentary about Beijing’s mass internment of Uyghurs, the treatment of Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong has led to him be hacked, followed and the target of death threats from individuals from United Front-related organisations living outside China.
A perennial agitator against the Beijing, he flew to London earlier in early July to stage a protest during the Wimbledon men’s singles final, where he was ejected for shouting “where is Peng Shuai?” – a reference to the Chinese tennis star who disappeared after accusing a CCP official of sexual assault.
Pavlou has received behind-the-scenes support from Australian diplomats at the High Commission, for which he is thankful, and while many British and Australian parliamentarians have been in touch personally, few have been prepared to voice their support publicly for him this time.
He concedes many believe he could “double-bluffing”, and admits more than one has asked him if he did send the hoax email to get more attention. This masthead has spoken to several leading China hawks who have been concerned about Pavlou’s lack of judgement over a recent series of stunt and admit he has become “too hot” for many to attach their political reputation to.
“I know the whole things sounds outrageous, but this is probably what they hoped for,” he said. “I know people don’t always like what I’ve done or my methods, but I have always stuck to peaceful, direct action methods. Why would I risk going to jail for sending a bomb threat?“
Both the Metropolitan police and Chinese Embassy have been approached for comment.
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