SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 24, 2014

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):National Tsing Hua University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Taiwan 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 24, 2014, border officials denied three Taiwanese student activists visas to enter Hong Kong, on a trip to participate in pro-democracy rallies connected to Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a peaceful protest calling for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Planned activities were organized by the New School for Democracy, an on-line school that promotes exchanges between activists in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Chen Wei-ting, Lin Fei-fan and Huang Kuo-chang — co-founders of Taiwan’s student-led Sunflower movement, which in March 2014 had vocally opposed a trade agreement between China and Taiwan — applied on-line for visas to travel to Hong Kong the week prior to the scheduled rallies. Although the activists reported that their visa applications fully complied with applicable regulations, all three applications were denied.

Following the denial of his visa application, Chen, a graduate student at National Tsing Hua University, attempted to travel to Hong Kong using a “Taiwan Compatriot’s Travel Document” – a permit issued by Chinese authorities that allows Taiwanese citizens to travel to China and Hong Kong.  Chen reported, however, that upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, customs officials took him aside, searched him, and informed him that his travel document had been nullified, despite the fact that it was not scheduled to expire until 2018.  Customs officials then escorted him to a plane bound for Taiwan.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparent attempts to retaliate for or restrict academic and expressive freedoms by limiting student mobility.  State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement intended to limit these freedoms.