Activist appeals fine over Tiananmen protest posters

An activist is appealing a fine for illegal political advertising by displaying placards about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Drew Pavlou was found guilty in a Brisbane court of failing to obtain consent for a regulated activity and not complying with a direction to cease from an authorised person.

Pavlou was fined $1000 plus $2000 for the Brisbane City Council's costs and just under $114 for court costs by magistrate Michael Holohan in October.

His appeal against the fine due to be heard in the Brisbane District Court on Friday was adjourned until May as material had not been filed.

Drew Pavlou says being fined for holding a sign is "so unfair".

Pavlou set up a table and placards near the entrance to the Queen Street Mall and Chinese consulate in Brisbane's city centre in May 2022, the Brisbane Magistrates Court trial heard.

He displayed signs saying "Nothing happened on June 4, 1989, change my mind," referring to the date when China's military violently ended a protest, and its government's efforts to censor discussion of the massacre.

Pavlou appeared to be creating his own version of an internet meme that featured a right-wing US commentator challenging university students to a debate.

Pavlou was issued an infringement notice after failing to comply with a Brisbane City Council officer's instructions to "pack up" the placards as they constituted unauthorised advertising in the mall.

The university student had been communicating his view of the Chinese Communist Party via his freedom of expression under Queensland’s Human Rights Act, Pavlou's lawyer Anthony Morris KC argued.

Mr Holohan said the council's laws fit the Human Rights Act's definition of a reasonable and justifiable exemption.

"To define otherwise would allow persons to communicate political and other messages, except where they have a commercial aspect, throughout the mall without restriction," he said.

No conviction was recorded after the court heard it would affect Pavlou’s plans to become a lawyer.

Pavlou said he was appealing the fine as it was unfair that holding a blank sign on Brisbane City Council land was subject to a "massive fine".

"I'm sure that we'll win ... (and) it'll be a great victory for free speech," he told AAP outside court.

"The Queensland Human Rights Act which makes very strong protections for freedom of speech, we think that that should protect the act of holding a blank sign."

Pavlou's appeal hearing is listed for May 17.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store