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 26, 2019

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Unirule Institute of Economics

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On August 26, 2019, it was reported that the Unirule Institute of Economics would shut down pursuant to a government order.

Unirule was an independent think tank founded in 1993 by a group of economists, dedicated to the open exchange of ideas regarding economics. In recent years, as liberal institutions in China were shuttered, Unirule survived, but faced increasing government pressure of its own. In July 2018, the company from which Unirule leased the space for its main offices temporarily soldered its gates, leaving a number of employees briefly locked inside (see report) The following November, two Unirule scholars — its executive director Sheng Hong and researcher and acting deputy director Jiang Hao — were prevented from leaving China to travel to a conference at Harvard University (see report). Unirule’s website was also temporarily shut down.

In July 2019, authorities reportedly informed Unirule officials that the institute had been banned. Later that same month, a government agency revoked Unirule’s business license on the grounds that Unirule had allegedly operated a website without a permit.

SAR is concerned about the closure of an independent, scholarly institution in apparent retaliation for academic conduct or content. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of the rights to academic freedom so long as those activities are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Actions aimed at limiting research and collaboration harm academic freedom and undermine society generally.