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: February 07, 2020

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 7, 2020, the School of Humanities and Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) announced that they have dismissed Zhou Peiyi, a lecturer in the department of social work, for a social media post criticizing China’s political system amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Zhou is a registered social worker who has worked at CASS since 2013. According to the official statement issued by CASS, the university received a report from a student that Zhou was spreading “inappropriate speech” on WeChat Moments (a non-public way of sharing messages among a user’s contacts) on February 6. University authorities reportedly conducted a brief investigation, which they concluded the following day, finding that Zhou had posed a bad influence on students in violation of Article 1 of Ten Guidelines for Professional Behaviour of University Teachers in the New Era by the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of China. Zhou was dismissed effective immediately.

Scholars At Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and 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. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Correction: An earlier version of this report referred to Zhou Peiyi as “Chau Pui-yi,” an incorrect transliteration of her Chinese name