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: August 01, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 1, 2018, Chinese authorities reportedly raided the home of Wenguang Sun, a prominent scholar and retired professor of economics at Shandong University, and detained him during a live telephone interview with Voice of America (VOA).

Professor Sun was invited by VOA’s US-based Mandarin service as a guest on its “Issues & Opinions” program, apparently to discuss an open letter he recently wrote about China’s foreign policy and spending practices. Police apparently entered Professor Sun’s home during the interview, and demanded that he end the interview. In the recording, Professor Sun can be heard refusing the order and protesting the officers’ presence in his home, before the phone line goes dead. VOA was reportedly unable to reach Professor Sun after the interview. Sources indicated to VOA that he was placed under house arrest.

As of this report, information regarding Professor Sun’s condition, location, or any official charges against him is unavailable.

For many years, Professor Sun has been a public critic of China’s policies and human rights record. In the past, Chinese authorities have reportedly taken a number of actions aimed at silencing Professor Sun, including violent attacks, house arrest, and travel restrictions.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about state efforts, including arbitrary detention, aimed at preventing a scholar from engaging in public expression — conduct that is expressly 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 party. State authorities must refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. Arbitrary detention not only harms the immediate victim, but also undermines academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.

UPDATES: On August 12, 2018, VOA reported that Professor Sun had returned to his home under the close watch of state officials. Professor Sun’s friends, relaying a message from him, stated that police “searched his home and took away all his cellphones, landline telephone, and computer.”

On November 20, 2018, VOA reported that Professor Sun is under house arrest at his apartment. Security officers are reportedly keeping watch outside his apartment and visitors to the building are required to register their presence upon entry.