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: July 19, 2022

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Tsinghua University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 19, 2022, it was reported that Tsinghua University had sanctioned two students for distributing LGBTQ+ Pride flags on campus.

On May 14, the students, members of Purple, a LGBTQ+ student group, placed 10 handheld LGBTQ+ Pride flags at a campus supermarket counter with a note encouraging students to take them.

In June, the university student affairs office issued letters to Christine Huang and the other student, whose full name has not been made public, notifying them of pending disciplinary actions for their actions and giving them five days to respond. Both students reportedly submitted appeals to the university

The next month, the students received official disciplinary warnings from the university, stating that they caused a “negative impact” by distributing “unauthorized promotional materials” on campus. The warning stipulates that for the next six months, the students are prohibited from receiving awards or scholarships and, should they break another rule, they could face a more severe penalty.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against students in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the 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 have an obligation to refrain from politically or ideologically motivated restrictions on expressive and academic activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions intended to restrict or retaliate against nonviolent student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.