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Swiss Student Lost PhD Fellowship after He Criticized China

A Swiss media exposed that a professor at the University of St. Gallen suspended the academic relationship he had with a PhD student because the student criticized China. The university also ended the student PhD fellowship with the university.

On August 3, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Swiss, German-language newspaper reported that a PhD student at the University of St. Gallen lost his PhD fellowship after tweeting a criticism of China. The incident took place in March 2020. The student goes by the name of Oliver Gerber as pseudonym. Gerber told the media that his professor received “an angry email” from China complaining that Gerber had spread “neo-Nazi” content on twitter. The professor terminated his academic ties with Gerber and also warned Gerber that he should moderate his political speech on the social media platform. A couple of days later, Gerber received a notification from the University of St. Gallen that they disabled his school email.

Gerber began his PhD research on environmental pollution at the University of St. Gallen in the spring of 2017. The subject is closely related to China. Gerber received a three-year government scholarship from a university in Wuhan, China. He met his Chinese girlfriend while he was in Wuhan, but he soon discovered that China’s censorship system affected his academic studies. When he submitted an article about re-education camps, he was given the lowest score.

Before Christmas in 2019, Gerber returned to Switzerland for the holiday. However, he couldn’t return back to Wuhan because of COVID. He began to use Twitter to condemn the Chinese government for the initial coverup of the new pandemic and for the repression in Xinjiang. He also criticized Xi Jinping. He said he was only active on Twitter for 10 days and had 10 followers.

The University of St. Gallen portrayed a different version of why Gerber was dismissed. It alleged that Gerber requested the cancellation of his registration at the University of St. Gallen while he was in China and denied that the University is influenced by China.

In recent years, Swiss universities have expanded their cooperation with China. The University of St. Gallen currently has 15 project agreements with China. However, the school emphasized that the department where Gerber was enrolled did not receive funds from China.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 5, 2021