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: December 16, 2021

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Qingdao University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 16, 2021, Qingdao University revoked the teaching license of Gao Weijia and transferred her to a non-teaching position in apparent retaliation for a statement she made on social media.

A week earlier, Gao published a social media post in which she said that young people should “feel free to visit the Yasukuni Shrine,” a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Japan. The Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to 2.5 million Japanese people who died in wars from the 19th century. Among them are 14 WWII leaders who were convicted as Class A war criminals. The shrine remains contentious within Japan and in China and Korea as it is seen as a symbol of Japan’s imperial and militarist past.

The university accused Gao of “seriously violating teachers’ professional ethics and codes of conduct,” stripped her of her teaching license, and placed her in a non-teaching position.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary action against a scholar by a university in retaliation for nonviolent expression. Universities should refrain from punishing students and faculty members for peaceful and responsible expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, dismissals aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.