The Xinjiang 13: China Blacklists Leading American Academics While Universities Remain Silent

We have seen the gradual dependence of the United States on China, which holds a huge amount of our debt. The result has been foreign policies designed to appease the Chinese government, including near silence on human rights abuses by that country. Now, academia has its own scandal of kowtowing to the Chinese, which have become equally dominant in research and education. Schools like Georgetown and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have said virtually nothing after their faculty were barred from entering China or flying on Chinese airlines due to objections to their writings. They are called the “Xinjiang 13” and their virtual abandonment by leading universities shows how academic freedom values have been sacrificed to maintain our dependence on Chinese funding.

The professors contributed to “Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland,” a 484-page paperback published in 2004. China responded with sanctions imposed by its security services — sanctions designed to retard the careers of these experts. Rather than protesting the obvious retaliation for free speech and thought, the schools have sought to appease the Chinese. Dartmouth reportedly even tried to fire one of the scholars because he couldn’t go to China.
Universities are now dependent on tuition from Chinese students, new programs in China, and research support. The blacklist includes some of the world’s leading Chinese experts. Yet, college and universities presidents are terrified of crossing the Chinese in defending their faculty. The result is that they have acquiesced to this attack on academic freedom.

Our universities have brought new meaning to the exchange between Lady Astor and Winston Churchill:

“Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” Churchill asks.
“A million pounds?” says Lady Astor. “I’d have to think about it first but, in all likelihood, yes.”
“How about for a six-pence?”
“Why I never!” Lady Astor huffs. “What do you take me for?”
“That, my dear,” says Sir Winston, “has been established. We are just negotiating price.”

Source: Bloomberg

Jonathan Turley

16 thoughts on “The Xinjiang 13: China Blacklists Leading American Academics While Universities Remain Silent”

  1. djiang, if you have a travel visa in the USA, you are free to speak to all the ethnic groups you want, about any subject you want. Want to go to a tribal meeting of the Cherokee, Navajo or any other tribe? Fine, do it if you can get invited. Visit an African-American church in Alabama or Mississippi and speak to them about racism? Go for it. You can even make public statements that any minority should have their own state, or perhaps even an independent country. Hardly anybody will listen to you if you do, but the important thing is that you would have the inalienable right to speak your mind. You would not be expelled or deported for speaking.

    The USA is a most self confident government and people. Criticism is not only allowed, it is welcomed. It is through honest debate in the public forum that a people grow stronger, not weaker. However, it is even enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that the people of the USA have a right, a duty, to throw off the yoke of an oppressive government should the need arise. The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of the populace to be armed as well, for that very purpose should it become necessary.

    As for what they do in the UK, that is their rules. There are a number of rules and laws in the UK with which I personally disagree or even find offensive. The American government has also arrested protesters, but those arrests are for trespassing or other minor offense, and most are released immediately, unless they made the mistake of fighting a police officer which will draw a more serous charge. On appeal, most of those arrests for protesting are thrown out as illegal arrests if they were not dropped outright.

    The US government has denied visas on occasion, to people on the so-called “watch list,” but in my opinion that too is wrong and probably illegal under the Constitution. For example, on this blog, if you say something outrageous, you may be made fun of, but not arrested. I say let them speak, and if they say something we do not like, we can ignore them, make fun of them, heckle them or engage in heated debate. We already to that in the case or our own politicians, up to and including the President.

  2. Otteray, I think you are confusing the issue. This is not an issue of freedom of speech, but one of national security. Can you go and dig into the past of the relations between the whites and the blacks, the native Indians and the Mexicans and fan racial hatred and encourage them to fight for their own independent countries here in the U.S.? If you think you can, then go and try it, but don’t practice that in China under the pretext of freedom of speech. As a matter of fact, China is already very friendly to those so-called experts. Report says they are not entirely barred from China, but only barred from Xinjiang. Which country would allow foreigners to come in and dig into their ethnic relations and incite hatred and cession? Few. Don’t frame it as an issue of freedom of speech; it’s not an issue of freedom of speech, but an issue of national security and national interest. Even if you insist you are exercising your freedom of speech, then do not do it at the expense of other’s interest. Your freedom of speech should not be exercised to harm the interest of others. Other countries have the right not to allow you to do that in their lands. When you are a foreigner traveling in another country, you should respect the laws, the customs and the culture of that country. You are not supposed to travel to another country and engage in illegal or unlawful or harmful activities. Otherwise, it’s no surprise that you will be expelled.

    I don’t think there’s any fear involved here. If there’s any fear, then think about Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder. How is he treated? What are you afraid of? Your allusion to the presidents of Egypt, Romania and Chile is simply absurd and just serves to reveal your wishful thinking and the dark side of your heart, to be frank. If all Americans, granted you are an American, think the same way as you do, then probably it’s going to be a tragedy for America. China is no Egypt, or Romania or Chile. Social unrests can happen anywhere, in Greece, Spain and Britain. All governments have to do what they think is best for the country. So what is the British government afraid of when they arrested so many protestors?

  3. Au contraire, djiang. There is no restriction on speech in this country. There are libel laws where someone who slanders your name can be sued for monetary damages in civil court, but there are no restrictions to the free exercise of speech that will result in criminal penalties. The founders of the United States, in their wisdom, had seen the horrible results of the censorship of speech in the countries from which they came and wanted to make sure it can not happen here.

    As far as people wanting to secede or create their own nation here, they can talk about it all they want. The government is strong enough to withstand the most withering criticism. There are hate groups who slander almost everyone in sight–the Westboro Baptist Church and neo-Nazi groups come immediately to mind. In fact, when those hateful groups have had their freedom of speech curtailed by local authorities, the Federal government has stepped in to censure the censors, not the hate group.

    Regarding terrorist groups, they can write or speak all they want; it is only when they start making bombs or buying illegal weapons that they will be arrested.

    It is a weak government that is afraid of free speech. A strong and self-confident government is not afraid to allow its people basic freedoms–most especially freedom of speech, religious practice and assembly.

    What are the leaders of your government afraid of? Ending up like the Presidents of Egypt, Romania or Chile?

  4. No two countries are the same. What can be practiced in America does not necessarily apply in China. China and the U.S. are different, and there are two many differences. China is basically a homogeneous country consisting of one predominant people, whereas America is a country of immigrants from many places of the world. Freedom of speech can be defined in a perfect way, and can be a goal for many people to seek, but in practice, there are many conditions and restrictions. I don’t think in America you can fan racial hatred among the white and the blacks, or you can advocate the establishment of a black country, or you can seek an independent country for the native Indians. In theory, maybe you can, but in practice, you will be ostracized. Freedom of speech is good, but should not be abused. Again, in this special case, it boils down to a matter of national interest and security, just as terrorists are not allowed to operate in America and spread anti-American rhetoric or sentiments in America. Why should China allow a bunch of scholars to fan racial hatred, to create ethnic tensions and harm China’s national unity? Freedom of speech is not the problem here.

  5. djiang, you wrote, “…You can not write a book and fan racial hatred and advocate independence of a part of a country in any country; this is not an exercise of the freedom of speech, but a hostile act…”


    My friend, you have no concept of how wrong you are. Freedom of speech means exactly that: freedom of speech. No qualifiers, no ifs, ands or buts, to use an American colloquial expression. Read a site like this one, or Daily Kos, RedState, or any number of other sites on the Internet. They have a wide range of ideas, many of them critical of government, the President, other governments, their leaders and a myriad of ideas both critical and supportive. Some in America even advocate insurrection–those are usually referred to as “hate sites,” but that speech is also protected. You may recall that Sarah Palin’s husband has been a member of an organization in Alaska advocating Alaska’s secession from the United States. It is legal in America to allow an organization like that to exist without fear of government interference or retribution.

    The great French writer, Voltaire, once wrote: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    There is not much to add to that.

  6. Otteray, yes, I think China will have more freedom of speech, and it’s a gradual process. But everything has its own boundaries, and freedom of speech is no exception. When it comes to issues of national security or national interest, no country would tolerate malicious act under the cover of the so-called freedom of speech. You can not write a book and fan racial hatred and advocate independence of a part of a country in any country; this is not an exercise of the freedom of speech, but a hostile act aimed at harming the interest of another country.

  7. djiang, we seem to have a failure to communicate. Seems we have a little thing here in America called the Constitution of the United States. It is our rulebook the government has to go by. There is a section in it called the First Amendment. This says the government MAY NOT censor speech and must guarantee freedom of the press. There is nothing wrong with criticizing the government. Any government. If a government and it’s leaders are so fragile and unstable that it cannot withstand criticism or the free exchange of ideas, maybe it NEEDS to be changed to something more stable and less thin skinned.

    Freedom of speech. It is a unique concept. China might like to try it sometime.

  8. This is not called academic freedom. The book is full of anti-China rhetoric and is an ill-intended book with political motives. You do not write a book about a certain part of a country and advocate its independence; it harms its national security. No wonder these scholars are barred from entering China. No Chinese scholars would write a book and advocate that the indigenous Indians should have their own independent county.

  9. The debt to China is 900B in 2011.
    Military/National Security Discretionary Spending is 895B in 2011*
    Non-Military National Security Discretionary Spending is 520B in 2011.

    *The Military spending only factors in what is public- who knows how much the black budgets are?

    I’m thinking a 50% reduction in just the above 2 budgets would pay off China in 2 years and get us out from under the onus and self-suppressing mindset of being a debtor nation.

  10. Oro Lee,

    That sounds like the chief bank robber giving his underlings a pep talk just prior to doing the deed.

    It is fatalistic.

  11. We have seen the gradual dependence of the United States on China, which holds a huge amount of our debt.”

    Our military philosophy is also framed on their concepts, even though our own American Founders were opposite to that philosophy.

    The question is whether war is an art or a disease, and whether our indebtedness has likewise grown cancerous as well.

  12. AY: “The fact that China is the largest foreign owner of U.S. Treasury holdings does put them in a powerful [ed.: but precarious] position.”

    Owe the bank $10 thousand, it owns you; owe it $10 million, you own the bank. Dumping $800 billion of Treasury hodings does what for the Chinese portfolio?

    For better or worse, for poorer or richer, a negotiated divorce agrrement seems more likely than death do us part.

    Every knock is an opportunity.

  13. A little dated but still relevant:

    China still likes us … for now
    The Treasury keeps churning out debt and China is still buying. But with the dollar faltering and a trade spat brewing, will China continue to buy U.S. bonds?

    By Paul R. La Monica, editor at large
    Last Updated: September 16, 2009: 1:53 PM ET

    The fact that China is the largest foreign owner of U.S. Treasurys does put them in a powerful position. With over $800 billion in Treasury holdings, China obviously has a lot of leverage to try and sway U.S. monetary, fiscal and trade policy. That partly explains their concerns about our deficit and the recent uproar over the tire tariffs.

  14. You don’t say….

    Well let us go to Iowa….the year 2007

    by phil454 | September 25, 2007 at 08:09 am

    Continue reading at Professor Fired For Excercising Free Speech Rights | NowPublic News Coverage

    Professor Fired For Excercising Free Speech Rights
    Southwestern Community College’s Red Oak campus is a small campus with a lot of controversy surrounding it. A western civilization teacher was fired the other day for expressing his own opinion with the class. It was an over the television class that included Red Oak and Osceola, Iowa in which the professor stated that he thought the story of Adam and Eve was a myth because he had never heard that a snake could talk. He than stated that he believed a lot of the bible was used in metaphorical terms. In turn the Osceola class couldn’t handle that maybe the bible wasn’t all meant to be taken literally so they threw a fit. They had him fired for, what I consider, his freedom of speech. He had taught at this school for 7-8 years and he has also been teaching at Metro Community College in Omaha, NE. He had been teaching this class the same way the whole time he has been teaching here at Southwestern. This time the supposed college students couldn’t handle a little bit of thinking outside of the box and flew off the handle. What get’s me is that we’re supposed to be college students which means that we are all adults.

    Continue reading at Professor Fired For Excercising Free Speech Rights | NowPublic News Coverage

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