Scholar Denied Visitation Privileges

Harvard’s chapter of Scholars at Risk is investigating the travel restrictions placed on Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping, who was denied permission to visit the United States last week by the Academy.

In a letter sent last Friday to officials including U.S. Chinese ambassadors, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Scholars at Risk called for a public disclosure of the reasons for restricting her travel and, if there are no official reasons, to approve her requests for future travel.

Cui was scheduled to give a lecture at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies today, following a conference in Philadelphia. But last Wednesday, the director of the Beijing Film Academy informed her that she was forbidden to travel, which Cui attributed to her advocacy of human rights and free speech.

Cui had been warned repeatedly for “transgressions” including posting social criticism pieces on her blog, conducting seminars on the Tiananmen Square Protests, and sending Twitter messages about other scholars who have been persecuted for supporting human rights, according to a New York Times article.

Cui’s Harvard lecture was to discuss trials of Chinese intellectuals including Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced in December to eleven years in prison for acts of “subversion” such as petitioning for constitutional reform and free elections. Cui surveyed over 100 intellectuals regarding the sentence and then published her findings on Twitter.


In the letters to U.S. and Chinese authorities, Scholars at Risk identifies as its central concern the challenges faced by intellectuals, stating, “The apparent restricting of Professor Cui’s travel suggests serious concerns...about intimidation of intellectuals generally in China.”

Scholars at Risk, an international network of academic institutions and individuals, aims to raise awareness of human rights and free speech violations around the world, principally by circulating alerts. At Harvard, the chapter is part of the University Committee on Human Rights Studies.

Yesterday, Scholars at Risk urged its affiliates to send letters, e-mails, and faxes of their own to the recipients of the organization’s letter.