LETTER 4.7: Don’t lend Yale’s name to human rights abusers
It is the policy of the News not to publish anonymous columns, but in this case, an exception has been made. The authors are University students with family in China who have been granted anonymity based on their concern for retaliation against them and their family if identified. The News has independently verified the identity of the authors.
Dear Yale President Peter Salovey,
We, a group of Yale Chinese and Hong Kong students, are writing to express our concerns about your upcoming speaking engagement at the 2023 Yale US-China Distinguished Colloquium on April 8, 2023. In this event, you will speak alongside Ping Huang, the consul general of the People’s Republic of China in New York, who has recently defended the Chinese government’s genocidal policies towards the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.
While the introduction of Mr. Huang’s speech is curiously omitted from the English homepage of the colloquium, your face is featured just above his in the Chinese promotion of this event on WeChat. This WeChat introduction of the colloquium sets the tone of this event as “paying attention to the opportunities and challenges the world faces in a new year” and “seeking peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit in the path of reconciliation between the two countries.” A PDF one-pager introduction of the colloquium specifies the options offered for the event sponsors, including “VIP tickets,” “an advertisement package with logo and business introduction” displayed on the colloquium’s promotional materials, and the opportunity to “hold an in-person event at Yale University”.
To foster an open and honest dialogue on “the challenges the world faces,” we urge you to address in your opening remarks the concerns regarding the Chinese government’s human rights violations and the safety concerns about Beijing’s transnational suppression of free speech and academic freedom, and its impact on the Yale Chinese, Hong Kong, Tibetan, Uyghur and other communities. We also urge you to facilitate a discussion in this colloquium where the audience can freely pose questions to Mr. Huang without safety concerns.
You, the head of Yale University, a non-partisan educational institution, must safeguard academic freedom and the wellbeing of students, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion at Yale. However, amid ongoing human rights abuses against Uyghurs and the continuing persecution of protesters in the peaceful White Paper Protests in China, your silence on the Chinese government’s human rights abuses and the impact they have on the Yale community, coupled with your presence alongside a Chinese government official who has publicly defended the abuses against the Uyghurs, could be perceived as an endorsement of the Chinese government’s oppressive policies and a cover-up of the human rights violations under the guise of “peaceful coexistence”.
On Yale’s campus, students already face serious security concerns with transnational surveillance from the Chinese Government. In 2019, while pursuing his Master’s degree at Yale, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law received numerous death threats from individuals claiming to be Yale students. You and your administration remained silent against this attack on the safety of a student and free speech on campus. Seeing your involvement in the Colloquium alongside Mr. Huang, we are deeply concerned about Yale’s ability to provide an environment free from fear of censorship or retaliation in our academic activities.
In the past several years, you and your administration have been habitually silent on the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, for example, during the brutal crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, when Yale Hong Kong students were distressed by the police violence at home; during the inhumane COVID-19 lockdowns in China, when Yale Chinese students were worried about their families’ survival; and during the White Paper protests in China, when we were traumatized witnessing the persecution of peaceful protesters against the brutal COVID-19 policies. Your silence, coupled with Yale’s lack of mental health support and academic accommodations, has directly undermined the wellbeing of Yale students during these difficult times.
As Yale students, we value academic exchanges that foster intellectual diversity and collaboration across different nationalities. However, we caution against the potential misuse of Yale’s academic credentials to condone human rights abuses. We strongly encourage all attendees of this event, especially Yale members, to address and inquire about the Chinese government’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hongkongers, Chinese people and other communities within and outside of China. We urge you and Yale University to take a firm stance for the human rights abuses caused by the government with which Yale has close ties, and to uphold the values that are fundamental to Yale education: “Lux et Veritas.”
A group of Yale Chinese and Hong Kong Students