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: April 22, 2024

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Asia University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 22, 2024, the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary announced Fan Yuntao, a professor of international law and political science at Asia University, has been “unaccounted” for since February 2023.

Yuntao disappeared during a visit to China in February 2023; he was scheduled to return to Tokyo in April 2023 for the new semester. Prior to his disappearance, Yuntao reportedly told people close to him that Chinese authorities requested he accompany them for an interrogation. Yuntao’s family has not seen or been able to contact him since he arrived in China.

Yuntao’s disappearance was announced nearly one month after an announcement from another Japanese university that Hu Shiyun, a professor of Chinese literature and linguistics at Kobe Gakuin University, was missing (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent enforced disappearance of a professor. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain security and safety, they must also respect international human rights standards and are obligated to comply with internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial, including the right to counsel and the right to a fair and public hearing. State officials also have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to free expression, so long as it is exercised peacefully and responsibly. Intimidation, detention or prosecution aimed at limiting free expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.