By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Mar. 22: International human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a 12-point Code of Conduct for colleges and universities to adopt to respond to Chinese government threats to the academic freedom of students, scholars, and educational institutions.
HRW said that there is a precedent for various threats to academic freedom resulting from Chinese government pressure or self censorship from the fear of backlash from Beijing including banning individuals such as Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from speaking at campuses as China views him as a “sensitive”.
“Colleges and universities that stand together are better equipped to resist Chinese government harassment and surveillance on campuses, visa denials, and pressures to censor or self-censor. Most important, they will be better prepared to ensure academic freedom on their campuses for all students and scholars, particularly those from China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
The watchdog also said that Confucius institutes, which are known to be an arm of the Chinese government propaganda unit, fundamentally compromised their institution’s commitment to academic freedom.
The 12-point guideline encourages speaking out for academic freedom, strengthening academic freedom on campus, countering threats to academic freedom, recording incidents of Chinese government infringement of academic freedom, joining with other academic institutions to promote research in China, flexibility for scholars and students working on China, rejecting Confucius Institutes, monitoring Chinese government-linked organizations, promoting academic freedom of students and scholars from China, disclosing all Chinese government funding, ensuring academic freedom in exchange programs and on satellite campuses and monitoring impact of Chinese government interference in academic freedom.
“President Xi’s moves to strangle academic freedom inside China makes it all the more urgent to ensure that students and scholars of and from China can enjoy academic freedom abroad, Institutions can demonstrate their commitment to peaceful, critical expression by adopting smart, robust protections, and keeping their gates open to all who seek academic freedom,” Richardson further said.