March 31, 2017
Last weekend, Sydney-based professor Feng Chongyi was repeatedly prevented from boarding flights from China back to Australia. Feng, a Chinese citizen and Australian permanent resident, has vocally criticized China’s expanding influence in Australia, and was in China conducting research on its ongoing crackdown on rights lawyers. Though not detained, he has repeatedly been questioned and told that he was suspected of threatening state security. On Thursday, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson confirmed to reporters that “in order to safeguard China’s national security, the relevant departments took measures in accordance with law against Chinese citizen Feng Chongyi to prevent him from leaving the country.” The remarks did not appear in the official press conference transcript.
Also on Thursday, Feng’s daughter in Sydney begged the Australian public and academics not to “let this issue go away,” expressing fear “that this will be drawn out and we don’t get an indication of when he can come home.” (The daughter of detained Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai has expressed solidarity on Twitter.) More than 80 scholars from Australia and around the world have responded to Feng’s situation with an open letter to the Chinese leadership:
Dear President Xi and Prime Minister Li,
We the undersigned are members of the global China Studies community. We are deeply concerned by the travel restrictions recently placed upon Professor Feng Chongyi of the University of Technology Sydney, which have prevented him from departing the People’s Republic of China and returning to his workplace and family in Sydney since last week.
Professor Feng is an internationally respected scholar of intellectual and political developments in modern and contemporary China. He is the author of a number of groundbreaking books, and a frequent commentator on issues of importance in the Australian media. He is, furthermore, a vital contributor to the global China Studies community, and his presence in Australia has significantly enhanced its learning and research environments in Chinese Studies.
We are disturbed that a fellow researcher, who has dedicated himself to promote the understanding of and interest in China, has been prevented from returning to his home and workplace for no reason other than his conscientious work as a China Studies scholar. Such actions make it difficult for the rest of us to be confident in the research environment in China today, and do not contribute positively to the continued construction of open and productive higher education collaboration between China and the rest of the world.
In light of China’s commitment to expanding international scholarly engagements, we respectfully request that Professor Feng be released and permitted to return to his workplace and home in Sydney. [Source]