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: April 01, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Northwest Minzu University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In early April 2019, authorities reportedly detained Northwest Minzu University graduate student Sonam Lhundrub in apparent retaliation for an essay he wrote for his civil service exam.

Sonam’s essay reportedly described the decline in government career opportunities for Tibetans in Tibetan regions of China. Sonam’s essay was widely circulated on social media, including on WeChat and Weibo. Shortly thereafter, authorities from the Tibet Education Bureau (TEB) reportedly took Sonam out of class.

As of this report, Sonam reportedly remains in the TEB’s custody. One source indicates that he is subjected to daily interrogations and that officials have begun questioning Sonam’s classmates and friends. Sonam’s essay has reportedly since been taken down from the internet. Information regarding Sonam’s exact whereabouts, whether he faces any charges, and whether he has access to family or legal counsel is unavailable as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to academic freedom — 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 signatory. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.