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: June 04, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 4, 2019, police reportedly detained and interrogated Yang Shaozheng, a former Guizhou University professor of economics, in connection to social media posts regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Guizhou University expelled Yang on August 15, 2018, in apparent retaliation for academic writings, including an article in which he raised questions over the economic costs of maintaining the Chinese Communist Party. Police reportedly questioned Yang about the article (see report).

On the night of June 3, Yang reportedly described in a post on social media platform WeChat the number of fatalities resulting from the Chinese army’s crackdown on protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 3 and 4, 1989. The next morning, police reportedly detained Yang, accusing him of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” After taking him into custody, officers reportedly handcuffed Yang to a chair and interrogated him for eight hours. According to Yang, police then brought him to his home so that police could carry out a search. When Yang refused to comply with the search, police threatened him and began returning him to the Public Security Bureau. Yang, however, managed to escape and fled to an unknown location.

According to a June 6 report by Radio Free Asia, Yang said that he was in a “temporarily safe” location. His current whereabouts are unknown as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the arbitrary detention of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — 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.