Academics around the world raised alarm over the “chilling effect” of Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong.
The academics claimed that the new security law “will compromise freedom of speech and academic autonomy.”
A letter signed by at least 100 scholars representing 71 academic institutions across 16 countries said universities are supposed to be a place for debate and offer a safe space for staff and students.
The group said under article 38 students traveling through Hong Kong and China can be charged and face prison sentences on the basis of academic work deemed to be subversive.
“The national security law … will compromise freedom of speech and academic autonomy, creating a chilling effect and encouraging critics of the Chinese party-state to self-censor,” read the letter seen by The Guardian.
In June, China imposed a new national security law in Hong Kong despite opposition from pro-democracy groups.
Scholars have called for an international movement, including universities and academic institutions, against Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong.
Dr. Andreas Fulda, senior fellow at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute and one of the initiators of the letter, said several students from the United Kingdom and from mainland China have expressed concerns that their “comments made inside the class or essays will be used as evidence against them.”
“Universities cannot meet this challenge alone,” said Fulda, adding that a united front of academic leaders, politicians, and senior government officials is needed “to mount a common defense of our academic freedoms.”
He said the international community must “call out the national security law for what it is.”
Fulda accused the Chinese Communist Party of “weaponizing students” to monitor their university instructors in mainland China and Hong Kong.
“Such attempts to instrumentalize students do not stop at China’s border,” he said.
The Guardian this week reported that a lecturer in Sinology at the University of Leipzig reported that students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China asked if they could drop his class.
“They worried about being associated with the criticism others made of the Chinese Communist Party in class,” said the lecturer.