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Columbia University’s Cancellation of Human Rights Forum Draws Criticism

Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, was scheduled to hold a seminar at Columbia University on Thursday, November 14. The topics included the human rights situation in China, including Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Beijing’s infiltration overseas. The day before the meeting, Columbia University told the organizers that the seminar had to be cancelled. According to Radio Free Asias interview of Teng Biao, a human rights activist and lawyer from China who was supposed to speak at the seminar, the explanation that the University gave was that a Chinese student group said that it would go to the seminar to hold a protest. As the school could not guarantee the safety of the participants, it decided to cancel the event.

A commentary published on the overseas Chinese website Boxun compared the incident with an event in 2017 at the University of California-San Diego, in which the Dalai Lama had been invited to give a commencement speech. Despite the opposition from the campus Chinese students’ organization, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), UCSD stood behind its decision to host the Dalai Lama.

The commentary questioned whether the so-called Chinese student organization mentioned by Columbia University is the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), a network of organizations that the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department oversees. The commentary questioned whether the CSSA has registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The commentary also questioned whether Columbia University has upheld freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Mr. Teng Biao pointed to the fact that, in recent years, there have been multiple incidents in which the Chinese Communist Party used Chinese students to interfere with freedom of speech and academic freedom on a U.S. campus and that these incidents deserve high attention from American society. It is understood that Columbia is the only Ivy League university in the United States that {still} hosts a Confucius Institute.

Source: Radio Free Asia, November 15, 2019.
Boxun, November 16, 2019