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: November 20, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Other

Institution(s):University of Canterbury

Region & Country:Oceania | New Zealand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 20, it was reported that University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady, a vocal critic of China’s activities abroad, was again the victim of harassment in connection with her academic work.

Dr. Brady, a professor of Chinese domestic and foreign politics and polar politics, has written extensively about overseas influence operations by the Chinese government, including in New Zealand. She has recommended that authorities consider Chinese influence operations a national security issue, has provided evidence regarding these operations to an Australian parliamentary committee, and has urged government authorities to investigate activities abroad by the Chinese Communist Party.

Since at least February 2018, Professor Brady has reportedly been the victim of break-ins to her home and office, in which her USB drives, computers, and phones were stolen (see report).

More recently, her car failed a safety inspection, reflecting defects that local experts said were almost certainly the result of deliberate tampering, and could have led to a deadly accident if not discovered. This follows editorials in local Chinese-language media harshly criticizing Professor Brady and Chinese democracy activists. New Zealand authorities are investigating the situation involving Professor Brady’s car, but as of this report, have not identified suspects.

Professor Brady reports having requested security assistance from the New Zealand government, without a response. On November 26, 2018, a group of New Zealand academics and others submitted a letter to government authorities demanding that they “take the threats against Professor Brady more seriously, in consideration of their implications for all New Zealanders.” The letter also urged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to make a clear statement in support of academic freedom.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about intimidation and violence, as well as the theft of personal property, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and academic freedom. State authorities have an obligation to protect academic freedom, including by ensuring the security of the university space and scholars, and taking appropriate measures to respond to acts of intimidation and violence targeting scholars’ academic, political or other public expression.