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: December 16, 2017

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Academia Sinica

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Hong Kong 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 16, 2017, it was reported that Hong Kong authorities had rejected visa applications of Taiwanese scholars Wu Rwei-ren and Wu Jieh-min, who had been invited to Hong Kong to participate in an academic conference.

Drs. Wu Rwei-ren and Wu Jieh-min are associate research fellows at Academia Sinica in Taipei. They were invited to Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Federation of Students to speak at a forum on December 22 on the theme “Colonial Hong Kong: from British colonial to Chinese rule.” Both scholars are participants in peaceful social reform movements, and had recently expressed criticism of Beijing and Hong Kong authorities — Wu Jieh-min through public statements and Wu Rwei-ren through articles published in September 2014 advocating Hong Kong self-determination.

Although both Drs. Wu Jieh-min and Wu Rwei-ren had been granted visas and traveled to Hong Kong in recent years without incident, the professors reported that their online visa applications, submitted in November 2017, had been denied without explanation. However, the denial reportedly occurred against a backdrop of similar incidents in which scholars and other public commentators were refused entry into Hong Kong after expressing controversial opinions. When asked about the visa denial, Hong Kong immigration officials reported that they could not comment on individual cases, sharing only that they would “consider all the factors” when assessing applications.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on scholars’ travel, apparently aimed at retaliating for or preventing nonviolent academic activity. Such actions obstruct the exercise of the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association– conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom and association, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement intended to limit these freedoms. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.