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AP reported today that Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping was due to fly to Philadelphia, but was told by her bosses on Sunday to cancel the trip. The official line was that she had classes to teach and her planned conference panel at the Association for Asian Studies in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was not related to her academic discipline.
According to Cui, these were all excuses. The real reason, she claimed, dates back to a speech she gave to fellow intellectuals on freedom of expression in 2009 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. She said that plainclothes police in unsuspecting cars were parked outside her apartment around the time of the anniversary, and she had also been invited to ‘drink tea’ with the authorities (in other words, a method of isolating and silencing potential activists). She told AP’s Charles Hutzler,
Really, they want to punish me…they’re afraid, one, of what I might say abroad, and two, they want to pressure me.
The final straw were her interviews with one hundred Chinese intellectuals after the 11-year sentence was handed down to Charter 08 co-author Liu Xiaobo in December 2009. She found that several interviewees did not agree with Liu’s actions, but criticized the government for continuing to criminalize free speech. Officials then told her that the interviews, which she posted on Twitter, were a ‘great destructive force’.
Besides the conference, Cui had also planned to visit Harvard University and other schools to give visiting lectures whilst in the States.
Six China scholars based in the US and Canada called the ban a “blatant infringement of academic freedom.” However, their letter sent to the Association for Asian Studies’ president urging the group to issue a protest has yet to receive a response.
Similarly, earlier this month outspoken poet Liao Yiwu was scheduled to attend a literary festival in Cologne, but was also banned from doing so. He claimed it was the thirteenth time he had been stopped from leaving China.
China’s hard line policy of dealing with those deemed to be ‘subversive’ has not eased in recent times. Besides Liu Xiaobo’s sentencing and Liao Yiwu’s travel ban, in February Tan Zuoren was sentenced to 5 years for attempting to publish details of poorly constructed buildings that had succumbed to the Sichuan earthquake.