On March 31, 2022, Ludong University expelled Sun Jian, a master’s student in Chinese history, for protesting the university’s COVID-19 policies and campus lockdown.
Prior to his expulsion, Sun had been criticizing the university’s pandemic response for months, including publishing an open letter in his WeChat on December 24, 2021. According to University World News, on March 27, 2022, he held signs on campus reading “Unblock Ludong” and “Resolutely oppose high nucleic acid testing for all staff” for approximately 20 minutes. Sun told Radio Free Asia that he was approached several times and followed during that period, before eventually being tackled and escorted into an administrative building on campus by a teacher and two security guards.
Following his brief detainment, he posted videos of himself holding the signs on social media, which purportedly caused the security bureau to issue him a warning. However, the bureau claims that Sun allegedly continued to “incite students to boycott” the university’s COVID-19 prevention measures on WeChat and other platforms following the warning. Then, on March 31, the university issued an expulsion notice to Sun, claiming that he had seriously violated national laws and public order and granting him 10 days to file a written appeal to the university.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the expulsion of a student for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression – conduct which is protected by 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 must refrain from taking action to restrict or chill nonviolent, responsible expressive activity. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the expulsion of a student for peaceful expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.