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: January 02, 2020

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Hong Kong 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 2, 2020, Hong Kong border authorities reportedly refused to permit Matthew Connors, a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, to enter the city, in apparent retaliation for his public expression or academic activity.

Connors, who has published books of photography on the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Egyptian Revolution, had visited Hong Kong in August and September 2019 to photograph the pro-democracy movement and was detained by the police on his first visit, although he was not charged with a crime. His photos shot during the second trip were published by The California Sunday Magazine in November 2019.

After arriving in Hong Kong, Connors was detained for four hours and questioned by immigration officers, who focused particular attention on his book about the Egyptian Revolution.  He was deported to New York on the early morning of January 3, after authorities informed him, without explanation, that he did not meet the immigration requirements.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on a scholar’s travel, apparently intended to retaliate for or prevent nonviolent academic or expressive activity. Such actions obstruct the exercise of the rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement intended to limit these freedoms.