Amnesty: Chinese government intimidates students

Students from China and Hong Kong studying abroad are being monitored and intimidated by their home country, reports Amnesty International, which also interviewed Chinese students in the Netherlands.

They told Amnesty that they were followed online, both by the regime and by fellow students. Also, one in three students say their families have been approached by Chinese authorities. These include threats of dismissal or revocation of passports or promotions if the students voice criticism.


Students apply self-censorship online and in conversations with each other to avoid getting into trouble. A Chinese student in the Netherlands tells Amnesty that she was repeatedly threatened by a Chinese classmate. In class, she was told that she should “have more respect for her homeland,” or there would be “consequences.” Earlier, Follow the Money (link in Dutch) wrote about how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands keep an eye on whether other members are too critical of their homeland.

The human rights organization interviewed 34 students from China and Hong Kong who are studying or have just finished in the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Chinese students have been in the news more often for restrictions on their freedom of speech. For example, Follow the Money wrote how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands are monitoring whether other members are not too critical of their home country. Research by the Clingendael Institute this year revealed that some of the doctoral students who receive scholarships from the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) must swear allegiance to the Communist Party in the accompanying contract. Delta revealed in 2023 that CSC PhD students must report to the Chinese Embassy in The Hague several times a year.

Despite such censorship attempts, Chinese students do not always let themselves to be silenced, protests in late 2022 showed. Chinese students in Delft also revolted – in their own way.

“The testimonies we collected for this study clearly show how the governments of China and Hong Kong try to silence students even though they are thousands of miles from home. Many students live in fear because of this,” said Sarah Brooks of Amnesty International in a press release. The organization calls on universities to better protect academic freedom and support Chinese students in the event of “transnational repression. (HOP, OL/ Delta, AdB)

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