An Australian man who held up a sign displaying an insult against Chinese President Xi Jinping at a busy Asian market in Sydney said he's been told by authorities he could be charged over the incident even though he was reportedly attacked by Chinese nationalists.
Drew Pavlou was filmed holding the sign that read "F*** Xi Jinping" in Chinese on Saturday at the Eastwood Plaza. The signage quickly triggered an angry reaction from some shoppers, some of whom vented their frustration, according to footage of the incident on Pavlou's Twitter account.
.The video shows angry people confronting him.
"America has genocide," according to subtitles in a video of the incident.
WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
Another man snatches the sign and throws it to the ground. One said he was "disrespecting Chinese here." During the encounter, Pavlou tells the crowd he is non-violent.
He later tweeted that the New South Wales Police Force contacted him to inform him that detectives were investigating him and that he would likely be charged.
"NSW Police want to charge me for holding a sign insulting Xi Jinping while campaigning in Sydney," Lavlou wrote. "They won’t even tell me what I’m being charged with. I’m sick of attacks on free speech, Australia desperately needs a Bill of Rights to protect free expression."
He also tweeted about the Chinese government's oppression of Uyghur Muslims who have been rounded up and detained in camps.
A spokesperson for the police force declined to confirm that Pavlou was being investigated but said they were investigating an alleged assault that occurred during a political protest at the Eastwood Plaza.
"Following inquiries, investigators attended an Eastwood home and spoke with a 48-year-old man about 4.30pm today," a police statement said. "He was issued a court attendance notice for Common Assault and is due to appear at Hornsby Local Court on Wednesday."
In a tweet, Pavlou called threats of being charged an "intimidation tactic."
In a Facebook post, he said he was making a simple point.
"I should be able to insult a dictator like Xi Jinping in my own country without being physically assaulted & attacked. Australia is a democracy and we should be free to insult any leader no matter how coarsely - this is a simple principle of free speech," he wrote. "No way would I have been surrounded by 50 people and physically assaulted if I held up a sign saying "F*** Scott Morrison" in Sydney. Why should Chinese ultra-nationalists get a free pass to assault people in Australia if someone insults Xi Jinping?"