On December 16, 2021, Shanghai Aurora College officials announced that Song Gengyi, a journalism lecturer, had been fired after giving a lecture in which she questioned the accuracy of the official death toll relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which the imperial Japanese Army committed a series of grave atrocities during the second Sino-Japanese War.
During the lecture, Song reportedly argued that the Chinese government’s official estimate of 300,000 deaths lacks statistical support and that estimates ranged from “500,000 to 300,000 to 30,000 to 3,000.” A student reportedly recorded the lecture and posted it online, shortly after which the university terminated Song for “making the wrong remarks, causing a serious teaching incident, and resulting in severely bad social impact.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university’s termination of a scholar in retaliation for nonviolent classroom expression. Universities should refrain from punishing students and faculty members for peaceful and responsible expressive activity, particularly when such activity relates to their field of expertise. 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.