However, a university spokeswoman said Dr Jiang did not extend an invitation for Badiucao to speak.

The Chinese government culture and language centres have attracted controversy and may be subject to the federal government’s foreign influence transparency legislation.

UWA’s is one of 13 around Australia.

“I was asked to be a guest for an ABC Chinese live program and they just by chance invited the head of the CI at the University of Western Australia,” Badiucao said.

“For me, I think it’s always important to confront representatives of those agencies directly, especially as I know it would be a live program.

“It was really about whether Chinese students in Australia can have a free speech environment where they can learn a different perspective.”

Badiucao said Dr Jiang was making general comments about providing a safe space for students to the panel, which was about what Chinese students in Australia should study as well as their courses.

“I said, ‘I want to go specific. Let’s say would be you open and welcoming for dissident artists like me to giving a talk in your institute or would you welcome scholars or student survivors from 1989 to come to your institute to talk about the Tiananmen Massacre?'” he said.

“She said, ‘Yes, you’re welcome’, so I said, ‘Well this is a surprise but I think it’s a good beginning’. I said I’d like the audience to be a witness for this promise.”

But the UWA spokeswoman said Dr Jiang only made it clear that UWA welcomed academic discussion on all topics.

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“This did not constitute an invitation. UWA is committed to freedom of expression and Dr Jiang’s response is consistent with that commitment,” she said.

“The Perth USAsia Centre hosted a public screening at UWA in June 2019 about the events surrounding Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“Badiucao would be welcome to organise a similar event on our campus, subject to the normal venue hire processes and current government health restrictions on gatherings. However, this should not be misconstrued as an invitation by the university or a commitment that UWA or its affiliates will organise an event for him.”

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The Chinese-born dissident, who is famous in the Chinese-speaking world for his cartoons lampooning the ruling communist regime, studied as a foreign student in Australia and is linked to prominent artist Ai Wei Wei.

He said he wanted the university to come good on its promise so students interested in learning about Chinese culture could be exposed to one of the most important events in its modern history.

“It’s actually about a topic that anyone who wants to learn about China would be really interested in,” he said.

“And it’s not just for local students, it’s also for all of those Chinese students because we all know that censorship is going on in China, there’s no way they can really learn the truth about it.

“The only way they can learn it is when they are outside of China, so that makes our universities also responsible to make them feel welcome so they can really view China from different perspectives.”

UWA and its Confucius Institute have been contacted for comment.

Nathan is WAtoday’s political reporter and the winner of the 2019 Arthur Lovekin Prize for Excellence in Journalism.

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