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: October 25, 2017

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):University of Salamanca

Region & Country:Europe | Spain

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In October 2017, the University of Salamanca (USAL) in Spain reportedly cancelled a series of campus events, apparently at the behest of the Chinese government.

USAL’s Taiwan Studies Program had planned a series of Taiwan-themed events in October 2017 called “Taiwan Cultural Days.” The program would feature a week-long series of events featuring different educational and cultural activities, including demonstrations of martial arts, health practices, and musical performances. Ko Shen-Yeaw, Taiwan’s representative to Spain and former deputy foreign minister, gave an opening speech at the event.

Four days after the event series began, however, education officials from the Chinese embassy in Spain reportedly wrote to USAL’s president and dean of the School of Social Sciences, demanding the cancellation of Taiwan Cultural Days. In the email, embassy officials accused the university of violating the “one China principle,” apparently for referring to the “People’s Republic of China (Taiwan)” and “Taiwanese Ambassador” in program and promotional materials. (Authorities in China and Spain both officially recognize Taiwan as a Chinese region.) The embassy officials called on USAL to cancel the event and suggested that USAL’s refusal to comply would negatively affect the university’s relationship with China. The next day, the dean sent an email to the university cancelling the remaining scheduled activities for Taiwan Cultural Days, “due to circumstances not related to the School of Social Sciences.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the cancellation of university activities, apparently at the behest of a foreign government.State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Actions aimed at limiting academic activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.