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 of him.
“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 skeptical professors, some from Australia, from UK. So it is a tactical 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-publicized 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 being hacked, followed and the target of death threats from individuals from United Front-related organizations 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 judgment over a recent series of stunt and admit he has become “too hot” for many to attach their political reputation to him.
“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.
Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.