On April 22, 2018, Peking University (PU) officials reportedly barred Yue Xin, a student in the School of Foreign Languages, from campus, in apparent retaliation for her filing a freedom of information request regarding a case of alleged rape and sexual harassment on campus. Ms. Yue was reportedly barred from campus for several days.
As part of spreading #MeToo movement among university students in China, on April 9, 2018, eight PU students, including Ms. Xin, reportedly submitted a petition to the university demanding official records related to alleged sexual misconduct by former professor Shen Yang. One of Professor Yang’s alleged victims, Gao Yan, committed suicide after allegedly being raped by him. Ms. Yan’s case has received public attention on April 5, 2018 when Li Youyou, a PKU alumna and a friend of Ms. Yan, published an article on Ms. Yan’s 1998 suicide. At the time, PU reportedly conducted an investigation and found that Mr. Yang was not responsible, and Ms. Yan had mental disorders. Mr. Yang received a verbal warning and continued to teach at PU.
On April 23, 2018, Ms. Xin published an open letter claiming that she had been harassed and intimidated by university officials. According to Ms. Xin, PU administrators summoned her for several meetings and threatened to refuse to allow her to graduate. Ms. Xin further alleges that, before she published the open letter, at 1:00 am on April 23, her school adviser reportedly came into her dorm room with her mother and forced her to delete documents related to her freedom of information the request from her computer. Her mother reportedly took her home, and Ms. XinYue was reportedly barred from campus for two days. She returned to campus on April 25.
Several media sources reported that online searches for Ms. Xin’s name have been been blocked by Chinese authorities and her post has been censored from the Internet. Some users had already recorded the letter using blockchain technology and have circulated it upside down to avoid censorship.
Separately, another PU student, Deng Yuhao was reportedly summoned by university officials at midnight on April 7, after he published an online statement calling students and professors to demand more information regarding PU’s investigation on Ms. Yan’s case. His online statement and all the posts mentioning him were reportedly censored from the Internet as well.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions as well as threats, intimidation, and other actions taken against students in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.