On September 22, 2018, Hunan City University (HCU) expelled civil engineering student Wang Dong, in apparent retaliation for his “unpatriotic” social media activity.
Wang allegedly published posts criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the social media site Weibo. One of the alleged posts, reportedly read “loving my country is impossible, I will never love my country.” Another criticized mandatory military training for high school and college students, stating “What’s the use of military training? The government keeps brainwashing me even into university.” Several students complained about the posts to university administration, describing his remarks as “insulting.”
On September 19, the university’s propaganda department reportedly launched an investigation into Wang and found his comments to be “unpatriotic.” On September 22, the university expelled Wang and published a statement condemning Wang’s remarks on Weibo, stating his expulsion, and reinforcing the CCP values. Posts from Wang’s account have since been deleted except for a profile description reading “top ten patriotic youth.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the expulsion of a student in apparent retaliation for his peaceful exercise of the right to free expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Disciplinary retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity harms academic freedom and democratic society generally.