Tensions over Hong Kong unrest flare on US college campuses

Oct 3, 2019, 7:02 AM

Emerson College student Frances Hui poses in the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston, Wednesday, Oct. ...

Emerson College student Frances Hui poses in the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Tensions over Hong Kong have been flaring at campuses around the world that host large numbers of visiting Chinese students. Hui, of Hong Kong, faced threatening language from classmates from mainland China after she published a column in the student newspaper, "I am from Hong Kong, not China." (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Some say they see the hand of the Chinese government working in ways that threaten academic freedom.

“Even though many Chinese students are studying right here, sometimes they are all being monitored. They’re not really free of their minds and expression in this country,” said Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, a 26-year-old graduate student in Asian studies at Yale University.

Law said he was told by a fellow student that other Chinese at the Ivy League school are avoiding contact with him for fear it will be reported back to the Chinese Embassy and they or their families back home will face consequences.

“There will be staring, spotting me and discussing among themselves, and pointing at me in an unfriendly manner,” said Law, whose continuing political work has included visits to Washington to meet with members of Congress.

Hong Kong has been beset with huge pro-democracy demonstrations since June that have triggered clashes with riot police in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory and stirred fears of a violent crackdown from Beijing.

Over 360,000 students from mainland China attended U.S. colleges and universities in the 2017-18 school year, compared with about 7,000 from Hong Kong, according to the Institute of International Education.

At Emerson College in Boston, student Frances Hui, of Hong Kong, faced threatening language from classmates from mainland China after she published a column in the student newspaper headlined “I am from Hong Kong, not China.”

She said she was unnerved by comments online by people who said they had seen her on campus and described her as short, which made her feel as if she were under surveillance. And she panicked when an Emerson student posted her column on Facebook along with a comment that any opponents of China “must be executed.”

Hui, 20, said she alerted the Emerson administration.

Emerson spokeswoman Sofiya Cabalquinto said the college supports “the rights of our students’ voicing their opinions and doing so free from threats.” She said the college put a plan in place to address Hui’s concerns, but she would not say whether disciplinary action was taken against the student who made the online post.

Law gained prominence as a student protest leader before winning election to Hong Kong’s legislature in 2016 but was later expelled as a member and jailed for several months for his activism.

He said he started getting death threats of unknown origin online soon after he arrived in August, including warnings that people with guns would go looking for him at Yale and suggestions that Chinese students in the U.S. assault him. He said he was also subjected to insults echoing a Chinese Communist Party campaign labeling him a criminal.

He reported the threats to police and the Yale administration. He said the harassment has subsided since Yale police began monitoring the online threats.

He said he hasn’t faced anything so overt from Yale students, although he said people have circulated his information in a group for Chinese students at Yale on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, and urged people to say “hi” to him _ a gesture he saw as vaguely threatening.

A Yale spokeswoman, Karen Peart, said only that the university police department takes appropriate action whenever a campus community member faces an unsafe situation.

report this year by Human Rights Watch said Chinese students at times remain silent in their classrooms out of fear their comments will be reported to Chinese authorities by other students. The organization described the monitoring as one of several ways the Chinese government undermines academic freedom on foreign campuses.

“Schools need to get very clear about these problems and they need to get policies to respond to them,” said Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director.

At universities in Australia and New Zealand, students on either side of the political divide have built up and torn down displays advocating autonomy for Hong Kong.

And there have been signs of tensions at other U.S. campuses, including Georgetown University in Washington, which has seen dueling chalk messages on the Hong Kong protests, and Columbia University in New York, where Hong Kong democracy advocates were greeted last month by protesters holding China’s flag at a lecture hall where they were giving a talk.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah's avalanche danger has been dangerous for the last week, with the Utah Avalanche Center report...


Skier severely injured following avalanche near Little Water Peak

A skier was injured after being caught in an avalanche on Monday Feb. 26. The skier was hoisted to safety.

44 minutes ago

After starting the new year with poor air quality, Utah may finally be able to take a breath and fi...

Heather Peterson

New black carbon sensor is more portable but just as accurate, study finds

A new study from the University of Utah finds that recently released black carbon new units are just as accurate in detecting black carbon, but they are more portable and affordable.

1 hour ago

Image of TV remote featuring Netflix button. Netflix may direct customers to stop paying for their ...

Samantha Delouya, CNN

You may lose access to your Netflix account if you’re paying through Apple

The update by Netflix comes after years of pushback from apps in Apples iOS App Store for taking a 30% cut of all in-app purchases.

2 hours ago

Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

11 hours ago

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander, al...

Jackie Wattles, CNN

Odysseus lunar lander shares new photos from its harrowing descent

The vehicle softly touched down on the moon on Thursday, becoming the first US-made lander to do so since the Apollo era.

12 hours ago

FILE: Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, speak about their...

Aimee Cobabe

Bill allowing parents to sue social media companies moves closer to becoming law

HB464 gives Utah parents the power to sue a social media company if their child develops mental health issues after using the apps

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Tensions over Hong Kong unrest flare on US college campuses