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Harvard Cancels Hong Kong Protest Panel Because It Coincided With University President Meeting Xi
Protesters gathered at New Town Plaza shopping mall, in Hong Kong, China on May 1, 2020. As virus cases eased in Hong Kong, activities threated Government social-distancing restrictions with a new protest in Shatin which was quickly dispersed by hundreds of riot police officers.
Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Harvard University was all set to host a panel discussion on the Hong Kong protests until it realized the panel was set for the same time the university’s president was supposed to be attending a meet-and-greet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that a former university scholar, Teng Biao, was the one who was set to host the panel discussion in 2015. Teng had been a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s human rights center, and the panel was supposed to discuss human rights issues in China. As the Free Beacon reported, however, a vice dean at Harvard Law School ordered Biao to cancel the event, saying it would be “embarrassing” for the university due to the president’s meeting with Xi.

“He called me into his office and he told me that the Harvard president was meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping,” Teng told the Free Beacon. “It seems that for Harvard leaders, it was very embarrassing if we had a talk at Harvard about human rights issues in China when the Harvard president just came back from China after meeting with the Chinese president.”

The vice dean who told Teng to cancel the event was Professor William P. Alford, who was one of those involved in bringing Teng to Harvard in the first place, the Free Beacon reported. Teng, a human rights lawyer, fled China after he was kidnapped and tortured by government authorities for participating in the 2014 Hong Kong protests.

Alford told the Free Beacon that he did, in fact, tell Teng to postpone the event, but that he did so on his own and not at the insistence of the Harvard administration. Alford told the outlet that Teng was able to host other events while he worked for Harvard, but this particular panel discussion was never re-scheduled.

Why? Because holding a panel about human rights abuses in China would have hurt the university’s relationship with the communist nation.

“I did ask that an event Mr. Teng planned to hold to coincide with a meeting between this university’s President and the Chinese President be postponed until after her short Beijing visit because I thought that timing might have an impact on university activity there (regarding academic, scientific, humanitarian and rights matters),” Alford said. “As the person who first invited Mr. Teng to spend a year here, I felt some responsibility for whatever impact his undertakings might have for others at the university.”

As the Free Beacon reported, China partnered with Western universities, including Harvard, providing them money to train Chinese students who would then return to China. Because of its ties to China and the $93 million it has received from the communist nation since 2013, Harvard has stifled academic freedom and free speech when it comes to China.

“Academic freedom should be an important principle of Harvard or any universities,” Teng said. “I was shocked when I saw this obvious self-censorship by Harvard. The Chinese government’s increasing influence on American universities is really alarming.”

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