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: July 01, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Minnesota

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In July 2019, Chinese authorities detained and imprisoned student Luo Daiqing in apparent retaliation for his social media activity. He was later sentenced to six months imprisonment in November 2019.

Luo is a Chinese citizen, who was enrolled at the University of Minnesota (UMN) during the 2018-2019 academic year. In fall 2018, while studying at UMN, Luo allegedly posted to Twitter several cartoons that appeared to satirically comment on the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At the end of UMN’s spring semester in 2019, Luo travelled to his hometown of Wuhan, China. Authorities detained Luo in July, in apparent retaliation for his social media activity. In November, a court sentenced Luo to six months imprisonment for “provocation,” alleging that forty comments allegedly posted from his Twitter account had denigrated the image of China’s president and had created a “negative social impact.”

On January 24, 2020, the US-based Star Tribune reported that it had received an email from Luo’s university email address, in which Luo confirmed that he had been detained and prosecuted for the Tweets, and stated that he had since been released from state custody and was in the city of Wuhan. A spokesperson from UMN told the Star Tribune that Luo is no longer enrolled at the university, without providing an explanation or commenting on his detention.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a student in 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.