The treatment of Chinese researchers and scholars, including directives from federal agencies to colleges to “develop protocols” for monitoring students coming from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions, has alarmed a group of higher education organizations.
On Monday, PEN America released a statement raising concerns over increased scrutiny of students due to their country of origin and encroachment of their individual rights in violation of the principle of free and open academic inquiry and exchange.
According to an NPR report, over the last one year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) paid visits to nearly 10 research universities across the nation advising them to monitor students coming from selected Chinese research universities and companies.
“Calls to monitor individuals solely based on their country of origin violate norms of due process and should raise alarms in a democracy,” the statement reads. “Disclosure requirements, information sharing, and export control enforcement all offer powerful means to protect against intellectual property theft and espionage without resorting to tactics that cast suspicion on potentially hundreds of thousands of students and scholars.”
The organizations warned that such a move has the potential to hamper the recruitment of foreign students and scholars, affect the training of new scientists, as well as damage various ongoing projects in the U.S.
They also called on China to stop using international students and faculty for espionage, which is leading to curtailment of academic freedom of host institutions and students. It also urged universities to not let the federal agencies infringe upon the rights of the universities and students.
“We advise universities to zealously safeguard their independence—to maintain their commitment to academic freedom, to uphold the principle of due process, and to respect the privacy rights of students and faculty, no matter their national origins,” the statement said.
Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce had called for providing a welcoming environment to Chinese students by integrating them on campuses. She blamed “constant negative and false narrative” as the primary reason why Chinese students perceive the United States in a bad light and become reluctant to have interactions with their American peers.