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: July 11, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution | Other


Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 11, 2018, Chinese authorities reportedly put under house arrest historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin in connection with a book he wrote and self-published about the Cultural Revolution. Lhamjab was later prosecuted and ultimately convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment with a two-year reprieve.

Lhamjab’s book, China’s Cultural Revolution, is based on twenty years of research and interviews with members of China’s Inner Mongolian community who survived the Cultural Revolution. The book describes accounts of the Chinese government’s widespread use of torture in the region. In 2006, Lhamjab self-published the book as he was turned down by state-run publishing houses. The book reportedly went on to be popular in both the Inner Mongolia region and the country of Mongolia.

Chinese authorities detained and put Lhamjab under house arrest on July 11, 2018, in connection with the book. Lhamjab was to be kept under police surveillance in the city of Shiliinhot.

On April 4, 2019, Lhamjab underwent a three-hour closed-door trial on charges of “national separatism,” “sabotaging national unity,” and “illegal publication and distribution.” Lhamjab reported that he was denied a lawyer during his court hearing.

On July 3, the court reportedly sentenced historian Lhamjab to one year imprisonment with a two-year reprieve on charges related to “separatism” and “illegal business.” According to a copy of the judgement obtained by the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), Lhamjab was also fined 2,000 RMB (approximately USD $300), barred from voting or running for elected office, and imposed severe restrictions on his expressive activity, including bans on attending public assemblies, publishing, and speaking with the press. Lhamjab reported to SMHRIC that he is required to report to the public security bureau daily.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention, house arrest, conviction, and sentencing of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of academic freedom — conduct that is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against academic and expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary detentions and prosecutions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.