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 08, 2018

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Shanghai Normal University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 8, 2018, it was reported the China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs forced Shanghai Normal University to postpone an international seminar on comfort women.

The international seminar on comfort women was scheduled to take place on August 10 at Shanghai Normal University, with about sixty experts expected to attend from Japan, China, South Korea, and North Korea. The so-called “comfort women” include women from China, the Korean Peninsula, and other regions who the Japanese military forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

According to media sources, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs allegedly demanded the postponement of the conference without explanation. August 12 marked the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China, which some reports speculate could have been the reason for the postponement.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about forced postponement of an academic seminar, apparently based on political motivations. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Actions aimed at limiting scholarly activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.