School of Politics and International Relations

Managing the risks of internationalisation: how the Hong Kong National Security Law undermines academic autonomy in the United Kingdom

Dr Andreas Fulda has repeatedly exercised global citizenship. In early October Dr Fulda wrote draft zero of the joint statement "The Hong Kong National Security Law is an assault on academic freedom". It was published in response to the passing of the so-called Hong Kong National Security Law.

On 12 October 2020 The Guardian broke the story about the group of international signatories, which includes some of the world's leading authorities on Chinese politics, law, and modern history. The 130 signatories represent 71 academic institutions across 16 countries. Their joint statement notes that the universal jurisdiction claimed by Article 38 of the National Security La raises the unsettling prospect of students traveling through Hong Kong and China facing the possibility of being handed lengthy prison sentences on the basis of academic work deemed to be 'subversive' by Chinese authorities. The Guardian quotes Dr Fulda as saying "several students – both from the United Kingdom and from mainland China – have told me in private that they are concerned that comments made in class or essays will be used as evidence against them."

The signatories cite reports that China related modules are being dropped and writings 'self censored' by students out of fear of future reprisals. Addressing US Ivy League Schools, the Russell Group of 24 leading British universities, as well as their counterparts in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the signatories demand an unequivocal condemnation of the National Security Law, or risk supporting it implicitly. On 13 October 2020 Dr Fulda reiterated this point in his letter to the editor in The Times in which he argued that "(we) need a democratic united front of vice-chancellors, lawmakers and state leaders denouncing this illiberal law."

In a plea to international lawmakers, the signatories of the joint statement called for legislation to be updated to create a university environment fit for the full exercise of academic freedom, and for governments to raise these concerns with their Chinese counterparts. The joint statement marks a decisive pushback of academics who feel threatened by the overreach of China's censorship regime, and represents a broader concern at the increasing threat to academic freedom from the Chinese Communist Party.

Various global news outlets such as Apple Daily (Hong Kong), Standnews (Hong Kong), Liberty Times (Taiwan), Radio France International (Vietnam), Deutsche Welle (Germany), and Berlingske (Denmark) have subsequently reported about the joint statement.

In December 2020 Dr Fulda joined the University of Nottingham's University Executive Board's (UEB) task and finish group to consider the recently published Universities UK report 'Internationalisation: Security Related Issues’. Together with his colleagues he will help consider the UUK report, determine the steps to be taken in relation to each of the recommendations it contains, and assist the process of staff consultation as appropriate.

Posted on Friday 11th December 2020

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