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