Harvard, Princeton Profs Fear Class Discussions About China

From Lucy Craymer at WSJ:

The effect of the new national-security law that China imposed on Hong Kong is extending far beyond the territory to American college campuses.

From Princeton:

“We cannot self-censor,” said Rory Truex, an assistant professor who teaches Chinese politics at Princeton. “If we, as a Chinese teaching community, out of fear stop teaching things like Tiananmen or Xinjiang or whatever sensitive topic the Chinese government doesn’t want us talking about, if we cave, then we’ve lost.”

His course will now come with a warning that some of the material might be sensitive and of concern to China’s government, and he said he was introducing blind grading. Students will hand in work bearing a code rather than their name, to prevent any student from being linked to particular views or arguments.

From HBS:

Meg Rithmire, who teaches political science at Harvard Business School, plans similar measures on a compulsory first-year course for roughly 800 students seeking a master’s degree in business administration. One of the case studies discussed requires students to read diaries from Uighur Muslims held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region—where Beijing is accused of large-scale human-rights abuses—and also covers Hong Kong, Taiwan and the legitimacy of the Communist party.

“There is no way that I can say to my students, ‘You can say whatever you want on the phone call and you are totally free and safe here,’” she said. “It’s more about harm mitigation.”

Class participation is normally an element of students’ grades, but if the amnesty is put in place they won’t be penalized for opting out.

From Minnesota:

A University of Minnesota student was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after returning home to the Chinese city of Wuhan last year. He was convicted of “provocation” for tweets he wrote while studying in the U.S. that allegedly mocked Chinese leaders.

From Amherst College, where we dropped off Grace on Saturday.

Part of the challenge is the growing list of subjects Beijing considers off-limits, said Kerry Ratigan, an assistant professor of political science at Amherst College. In the mid 2000s, she could openly discuss public policy with China-based academics, but that is now sensitive, she said.

“It’s a moving target,” said Dr. Ratigan, who fears increased risks for students who are Chinese citizens or have close family in China.

…Along with providing warnings for students taking her classes she’s looking at ways to hold anonymous online chats so that students—her classes number about 20—could express opinions openly without fear of recrimination.

“It’s very difficult. In an ideal world we could have these more sensitive conversations in person,” she said.

A great joy of studying abroad is that your fellow students ask about your homeland.  I loved being an American at the London School of Economics — even if fellow students were anti-American, I was an “expert” to some degree, so the conversations were stimulating.

I feel bad for Chinese students abroad, if discussing their homeland causes fear and a desire to change the subject.  This undermines the global peace goal of international cultural exchange.  The public interest, I always thought, was that elite 20 year olds realize “People are pretty much the same, with some interesting differences.”  And then at age 50, when they are In Charge back home, they don’t fear “the other.”