Oxford students told to submit work on China anonymously amid threat of Hong Kong security law

Move comes ‘in order to afford some extra protection’, says academic

Rory Sullivan
Monday 28 September 2020 11:43 BST
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The Radcliffe Camera, a building belonging to the University of Oxford,  is shown in the centre of Oxford. 
The Radcliffe Camera, a building belonging to the University of Oxford,  is shown in the centre of Oxford. 

Oxford University students enrolled in courses about China are reportedly being asked to hand in some of their work anonymously as a protective measure amid the threat caused by the new security law in Hong Kong.

The controversial legislation, which critics say erodes freedom, came into effect in the territory at the end of June, covering four types of offences: collusion with foreign forces, secession, subversion and terrorism.

As people who are not Hong Kong residents can be arrested under the law for things they do or say outside Hong Kong, some universities have decided to take actions to safeguard their students.

Princeton University in New Jersey, US, is among the institutions that has done so. Instead of names, it will use a code system for submitted work on Chinese politics, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Oxford University has now allegedly followed suit by adopting a similar policy.  

Patricia Thornton, who teaches Chinese politics at Oxford University, told The Guardian that she would not change her teaching material but would ask students to submit and present their work anonymously “in order to afford some extra protection.”

“This means my lectures, reading lists and tutorial essay questions will remain largely the same, but the students will be asked to present the anonymised work of one of their peers in classes,” she added.

Ms Thornton also told the paper that students must not record classes that take place online.

The number of Chinese students in the UK is now about 120,000, rising from 89,540 since the 2014-15 academic year.

The UK decided to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in July as a result of Beijing’s new security law, following the example of countries such as Australia and Canada. 

Announcing the decision, foreign secretary Dominic Raab told MPs that the law constituted “a clear and serious violation of the UK-China joint declaration and with it a violation of China’s freely assumed international obligations”. 

“The UK is watching and the whole world is watching,” he added. 

Earlier this month, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN’s special rapporteur for protecting human rights, wrote to the Chinese government warning that the legislation did not adhere to Hong Kong’s international duties. 

“We are particularly troubled that this legislation may impinge impermissibly on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and of peaceful assembly as protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the letter said. 

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