Chinese Students in Canada Must Respect Free Speech



Chinese students in Toronto and Montreal have been enlisting support from all students in an effort to intimidate activists who have opinions to share about the issues between Beijing and Tibet plus the dire human rights issues between Beijing and the Muslim Uygur minority in Xinjiang.

News and Analysis by Melissa Hemingway with files from Micheal John  – Feminine Perspective Magazine

The key to learning is open-mindedness. The antithesis is to be all-knowing. If students adduce to themselves that they know everything and refuse to hear counter views, why bother to go to school?

Marchers for Free Speech, 1964. Photo Credit: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Steven Marcus.

The University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on those views. Only in this way can it best serve democracy”, Clark Kerr first President, University of California.

Canada Favours Democracy and Freedom of Speech Say Ministers

Two women ministers of the Canadian Government on Friday in a missive  related to elections in Ukraine made it very clear, “Canada stands for democracy around the world.” The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, were announcing Canada’s financial contributions and administrative assistance for the conduct of free elections in the Ukraine. Democracy comprises all human rights including freedom of speech.

In Canada, section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

This guarantees the right of Ms. Rukiye Turdush to speak her mind. People had the right to attend or not attend, listen or not listen. Nobody had the right to harass the speaker in any manner. Nevertheless, the fact that she was harassed implies that she had statements to give that were considered by someone as a feared truth.

Uygur Muslim activist, Rukiye Turdush gave a talk at McMaster University in Ontario last week. Chinese Communist students have harassed and intimidated this speaker.  Photo Credit: Facebook.

2018 Report: PRC Political Influence & Interference Activities in American Higher Education

The American experience is instructive for Canadians. It has been well documented.

A study completed for the Kissinger  Institute On China and the
United States done by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars sets out some warnings of conduct students at Canadian Universities have just witnessed.

“Concerns about the PRC’s political influence on people and organizations”, says the US report, “within the United States have coalesced in recent months, prompting a slew of congressional hearings on the subject. In the American education sector, lawmakers and journalists have focused their attention on the state-sponsored Confucius Institutes, which allegedly promote CCP propaganda and censor campus activities critical of China.”

The preliminary study finds that these concerns are warranted, even if they are sometimes overblown and fraught with potential for mischaracterization, or worse, racial profiling. Over the past two decades, PRC diplomats stationed in the United States have infringed on the academic freedom of American university faculty, students, administrators, and staff by:

* Complaining to universities about invited speakers and events;

* Pressuring and/or offering inducements to faculty whose work involves content deemed sensitive by the PRC authorities, and

* Probing faculty and staff for information in a manner consistent with intelligence collection; and

* Employing intimidating modes of conversation a small number of PRC students have infringed on the academic freedom of American university faculty, students, administrators, and staff in recent years by:

* Demanding the removal of research, promotional and decorative materials involving sensitive content from university spaces;
* Demanding faculty alter their language or teaching materials involving sensitive content on political rather than evidence-based grounds;
* Interrupting and heckling other members of the university community who engage in critical discussion of China; and

* Pressuring universities to cancel academic activities involving sensitive content PRC students have also acted in ways that concerned or intimidated faculty, staff, and other students at American universities by:

* Monitoring people and activities on campus involving sensitive content;
* Probing faculty for information in a suspicious manner; and
* Engaging in intimidation, abusive conduct, or harassment of other members of the university community.

Read the entire report:
Preliminary Study PRC Political Influence and Interference Activities in American Higher EducationAs the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) consolidates its control over every aspect of domestic society, it increasingly seeks to shape the world in its image.Mammoth multimedia platforms broadcasting the “Voice of China,” development projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, and the power to limit foreign companies’ access to its lucrative market are just a few of the tools at Beijing’s disposal. Officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) present their global initiatives as public goods, but many see the PRC’s moves as those of a peer competitor aiming to create a world antithetical to the West’s  values and interests.Academic and public discussions, however, have largely ignored the challenges that may arise from the activities of PRC diplomats and the community of PRC nationals enrolled as students at American universities.

Student activities probably derive from these individuals’ nationalistic beliefs, which they may air in ways inconsistent with university norms for reasons of chauvinism, defensiveness, or lack of familiarity with Western academic practice. PRC students envisioning a career in the party may also believe they can accrue future professional benefits by combatting criticism of China while abroad.

The PRC students documented in this study likely represent a tiny proportion of the more than 350,000 PRC nationals currently studying in the United States[Ed.: 140,000 in Canada].

Any suggestion that all or most PRC students are CCP agents is appallingly broad and dangerously inaccurate.

Countermeasures should neither vilify PRC students as a group nor lose sight of the fact that these students, along with faculty members of Chinese descent, are often the victims of influence and interference activities perpetrated by PRC diplomats and nationalistic peers. PRC students make significant contributions to the American economy, scientific innovation, and culture.

Nor is the PRC the only country that seeks to influence people and processes within American higher education.

By documenting numerous cases in which PRC diplomats and a small number of students have infringed on university community members’ academic freedom and personal safety, the study offers several insights, among them that:
* PRC diplomats engage in a range of activities to monitor, influence and induce the cessation of academic activities involving sensitive content on American campuses
* PRC students are not a homogeneous group; they can be both perpetrators and victims of politically-motivated attempts to infringe on the academic freedom and personal safety of university community members
* PRC students have employed language typically associated with progressive campus activist movements to oppose academic activities involving sensitive content
* There is great diversity among China Studies faculty and university administrators in terms of exposure to and concern about PRC influence and interference activities

* PRC influence and interference activities have occurred not just at cash-strapped public university systems with high enrollments of PRC nationals, but also at wealthy Ivy League institutions and small liberal arts institutions

Recommendations

The study’s primary recommendation is that government and academia jointly convene a non-partisan team of researchers to investigate PRC influence and interference activities at American universities. In the meantime, American universities should adopt practices to make the campus environment less hospitable to PRC influence and interference activities, including:
* Experience-sharing among universities to develop a collective awareness of challenges arising from engagement with the PRC
* Collaboration with federal law enforcement to report instances of PRC diplomatic pressure and retaliation
* Procedures for rebuffing pressure tactics from PRC diplomats
* Reaffirming universities’ traditional commitment to academic freedom and resisting attempts to limit campus speech or activity on the basis of whether that speech or activity gives someone offense
* A school-wide orientation about appropriate behavior in the American university at the beginning of the academic year for students from every country
* New faculty practices to turn moments when PRC students articulate the party line into learning opportunities, and to intervene when students from any country interrupt or heckle others
* Channels for faculty to report troubling incidents to higher administration
* Education for university police departments so that officers are better equipped to handle disruptive students and un-enrolled visitors Policymakers can consider responses to certain aspects of PRC influence and interference activities by:

* Creating a reporting system for universities that experience PRC influence and interference incidents
* Declaring persona non grata PRC diplomats who pressure universities that extend invitations to figures like the Dalai Lama or threaten faculty pursuing sensitive research topics
* Putting issues of influence and interference in academia on the agenda when meeting with PRC interlocutors
* Imposing a cost on the PRC when it punishes American institutions for upholding academic freedom on their own campuses
* Clarifying the circumstances under which a group is considered a “scholastic” or “academic” entity exempt from the Foreign Agent Registration Act, with an eye toward regulating the activities of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association