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.

Today’s Top Stories

On Saturday, two German soccer fans told CNN that they were asked by security officials at Qatar 20...
Ben Church, CNN

World Cup: Soccer fans stopped by security officials for wearing rainbow-colored items as LGBTQ+ rights issue won’t go away at Qatar 2022

The World Cup is well underway in Qatar, but issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights for the Gulf state won't go away.
20 hours ago
Mountain Green Fire Protection District said neighbors reported a burning trash can next to a home ...
Waverly Golden

Trash can on fire at home in the Cottonwoods, safely extinguished

Mountain Green Fire Protection District said neighbors reported a burning trash can next to a home in the Cottonwoods on Nov. 25. 
20 hours ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
20 hours ago
Image of the fatal crash in Draper on 11/25/22 (Photo courtesy of Utah DPS)...
Chandler Holt

Crash on I-15 in Draper leaves one dead

A Jeep and Toyota Tundra were involved in a crash late Friday night in Draper. The two vehicles were traveling in adjacent lanes on I-15 near 14100 South.
20 hours ago
Follow @amandadickson...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: What we know that just ain’t so

Like Mark Twain famously said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
20 hours ago
Bodycam video released by authorities shows the good Samaritan trying to help the man on the tracks...
Tavleen Tarrant, CNN

Good Samaritan and NYPD officers rescue man from subway tracks moments before train arrives

A man was rescued from the New York subway tracks by good Samaritan and police just moments before a track arrived.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Tensions over Hong Kong unrest flare on US college campuses