Academics Around the World Write to Xi Jinping: Give Freedom of Speech Back to the Chinese People

February 22, 2020

This open letter was initiated by professors Andrew Nathan, Perry Link, and Zhang Lun. Please join them, as many of their colleagues have done, to sign this letter. Please send your name and affiliation to: The list of signatories will be updated daily. The Chinese version of this letter can be found here.

Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China:

We are startled and dismayed to learn of the recent forcible arrest in Guangzhou of Xu Zhiyong, a citizen-activist and holder of the degree of Doctor of Laws from Peking University.

It was only a few days ago, on February 6, 2020, that Li Wenliang, a physician and an early whistle-blower on the spread of the corona virus in Wuhan, died in his efforts to help his fellow citizens. When Dr. Li discovered the spread of the virus, he advised a small circle of his friends and relatives to guard against it.  That act brought police to his door.  He was summoned to a police station, threatened, and ordered him to keep silent about the virus.  This kind of abridgment of freedom of speech turned China into an open field upon which the virus could have its way and bring disaster.  When the news about Dr. Li got out, a nationwide torrent of popular indignation followed.  Calls for freedom of speech grew strong.

The news of Xu Zhiyong’s arbitrary arrest only sharpens the crisis of freedom of speech in China.

We are aware of Xu Zhiyong’s many and frank criticisms of the Chinese government and of you personally.  But we recall, too, that when you came to power in 2012 you announced your intention to “rule by constitution.”  Article 35 of China’s constitution reads: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall have the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, demonstration, and protest.”  Article 41 reads: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall have the right to present criticisms of and suggestions for any state organ and any state official.”  Xu Zhiyong’s views certainly do diverge from official government views; but they all fall within the scope of free expression and critical suggestion guaranteed by China’s constitution.  As a leader of the government, you have a duty to respect analyses and political opinions that differ from your own, even if the difference is extreme.  To deploy government organs in the repression of criticism and denial of free speech violates China’s constitution and diminishes the dignity both of  the Chinese state and of you personally.

Accordingly, we feel compelled to express our profound concern over the arrest of Xu Zhiyong (and the arrests of his friends Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Zhongshun, Dai Zhenya, and Li Yingjun on 26 December 2019); we ask the Chinese government to show that it has absorbed the lesson of the Li Wenliang episode by immediately releasing the innocent citizens Xu Zhiyong and his colleagues, by ceasing abuses of citizens’ rights forthwith, and by returning freedom of speech to the Chinese people.


1. Tomoko Ako, University of Tokyo  阿古智子, 东京大学教授

2. Geremie R Barmé, Australian National University 白杰明, 澳大利亚国立大学荣休教授

3. Robert Barnett, SOAS University of London 伦敦大学亚非学院研究员

4. Jean-Philippe Béja, Institut de politique de Paris 白夏, 巴黎政治大学教授

5. Joseph Bosco, The Hill Newspaper 《国会山报》专栏作家

6. Anthony W Bradley, Edinburgh University/Oxford University 爱丁堡大学荣休教授/牛津大学访问学者

7. Anne-Marie Brady, University of Canterbury 坎特伯雷大学教授

8. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Hong Kong Baptist University 香港浸会大学教授

9. Kevin Carrico, Monash University 凱大熊, 莫那什大学资深研究员

10. Josephine Chiu-Duke, Professor, Asian Studies Department, University of British Columbia 不列颠哥伦比亚大学教授

11. Donald Clarke, George Washington University 郭丹青, 乔治华盛顿大学教授

12. Jerome A. Cohen, New York University 孔杰荣, 纽约大学资深教授

13. Alison W. Conner, University of Hawaii at Manoa 夏威夷大学马诺阿分校教授

14. Michael C. Davis, Columbia University戴大為, 哥伦比亚大学教授

15. Larry Diamond, Stanford University 戴雅门, 斯坦福大学教授

16. June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami 金德芳, 迈阿密大学教授

17. Michael S. Duke, Emeritus Professor, Asian Studies Department, University of British Columbia 杜迈可, 不列颠哥伦比亚大学荣休教授

18. Marion Eggert, Ruhr University Bochum 梅綺雯, 波鸿大学教授

19. Joseph W. Esherick, University of California, San Diego 周锡瑞, 加州大学圣迭戈分校荣休教授

20. Feng Chongyi, University of Technology Sydney 冯崇义, 悉尼科技大学教授

21. Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne 墨尔本大学教授

22. Magnus Fiskesjo, Cornell University 馬思中, 康奈尔大学副教授

23. Martin S. Flaherty, Princeton University 普林斯顿大学教授

24. Eli Friedman, Cornell University 康奈尔大学副教授

25. Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin 威斯康星大学荣休教授

26. Terence Halliday, Australian National University 澳大利亚国立大学教授

27. Andrew James Harding, National University of Singapore 安德馨, 新加坡国立大学教授

28. Nicholas Calvin Howson, University of Michigan Law School 郝山, 密西根大学讲席讲授

29. Victoria Hui, University of Notre Dame 許田波, 圣母大学副教授

30. Katrin Kinzelbach, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg 石小琳, 纽伦堡大学教授

31. Thomas E. Kellogg, Georgetown University Law Center 郭汤姆, 乔治城大学亚洲法中心执行主任

32. Heinz Klug, University of Wisconsin 威斯康星大学教授

33. Steven I. Levine, University of Montana 蒙塔纳大学教授

34. Margaret K. Lewis, Seton Hall University 陸梅吉, 塞顿霍尔大学教授

35. Perry Link, University of California at Riverside 林培瑞, 加州大学河滨分校教授

36. Barrett L. McCormick, Professor of Political Science Department, Marquette University 马凯特大学政治学教授   

37. Andrew Nathan, University of Columbia 黎安友, 哥伦比亚大学教授

38. Mareike Ohlberg, Mercator Institute for China Studies 墨卡托中国研究所研究员

39. Minxin Pei, Claremont McKenna College 裴敏欣, 克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院教授

40. Eva Pils, King’s College London 艾华, 伦敦国王学院教授

41. Pitman B. Potter, University of British Columbia 不列颠哥伦比亚大学教授

42. Heiner Roetz, Bochum University 罗德海, 波鸿大学教授

43. Wojciech Sadurski, University of Sydney/University of Warsaw 萨德沃, 悉尼大学/华沙大学教授

44. David Schak, Griffith University 澳大利亚格里菲斯大学荣休教授

45. Cheryl Saunders, University of Melbourne 桑雪丽, 墨尔本大学教授

46. James Simpson, Harvard University 哈佛大学教授

47. Mahendra P. Singh, National Law University, Delhi 辛默涵, 印度德里国家法科大学教授

48. Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine 加州大学尔湾分校教授

49. Ken Suzuki, Meiji University 铃木贤, 明治大学教授

50. Teng Biao, City University of New York 滕彪, 纽约城市大学兼任教授

51. Edith Terry, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 香港科技大学兼任教授

52. Glenn Tiffert, Hoover Institution 谭安, 胡佛研究所研究员

53. Rory Truex, Princeton University 普林斯顿大学助理教授

54. Steve Tsang, SOAS University of London 伦敦大学亚非学院教授

55. Alex Wang, UCLA 王立德, 加州大学洛杉矶分校教授

56. Jeremy Webber, University of Victoria 韦杰儒, 加拿大维多利亚大学教授

57. Martin K. Whyte, John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Harvard University 怀默霆, 哈佛大学荣退教授

58. Andrea Worden, John Hopkins University 吳玉婷, 霍普金斯大学兼任教授

59. Ming Xia, CUNY-Gradute Center 夏明, 纽约城市大学研究生院教授

60. Stephen M. Young, Global Taiwan Institute 全球台湾研究所研究员

61. Lun Zhang, Universitéde Cergy-Pontoise 张伦, 法国赛尔奇·蓬多瓦兹大学教授

Updated on 2/23/20 with 22 more signers:

1. Patricia Adams, Probe International 

2. Ellen Bahr, Librarian, Herrick Memorial Library, Alfred University 阿尔弗雷德大学图书馆员

3. David Brophy, University of Sydney 悉尼大学

4. Jie Cai, American University 蔡杰,美利坚大学讲师

5. Yu-Jie Chen, Global Academic Fellow, Hong Kong University Faculty of Law 陳玉潔,香港大學

6. Duncan Campbell, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand 新西蘭維多利亞大學

7. Harriet Evans, Westminster University  艾桦,威敏寺大学教授

8. Andreas Fulda, University of Nottingham, 傅洛達,諾丁漢大學

9. Sharyn Graham Davies, Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand 新西蘭奧克蘭理工大學

10. Stephen J. Epstein, Associate Professor in Asian Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand 新西蘭維多利亞大學

11. Ling Guan, Lecturer, Institute of the Pacific United, New Zealand 新西蘭國際太平洋學院

12. Marie Holzman, Solidarité Chine 侯芷明,中國團結協會主席,巴黎第七大學退休漢學家

13. Pauline Keating  新西蘭維多利亞大學研究員

14. Paul Levine, Professor Emeritus, Copenhagen University 哥本哈根大學榮休教授

15. Winston Lord, former US Ambassador to China温斯顿·洛德,美國前駐華大使

16. Paola Paderni, Associate Professor of History and Institutions of China, University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Italy  意大利那不勒斯東方大學副教授

17. Robert Reginio, Alfred University 阿尔弗雷德大学教授

18. Sue Trevaskes, Griffith University, Australia 格里菲斯大学教授

19. Paola Voci, University of Otago  齐娜, 奥​塔哥大学副教授

20. Chaohua Wang, Ph.D of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, UCLA, Independent Scholar 王超華,獨立學者

21. Robert D. Williams, Yale University  耶魯大學講師

22. Jason Young, Victoria University of Wellington  杨杰生,新西蘭惠灵顿维多利亚大学副教授

Updated on 2/24/20 with 16 more signers:

1. Scott Waldron, Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, Australia 澳大利亞昆士蘭大學

2. Koen Wellens, University of Oslo 奧斯陸大學副教授

3. Martin Hála, Charles University, Prague 布拉格查理大學

4. Mendo Castro Henriques, Universidade Católica Portuguesa 葡萄牙天主教大學

5. Robert Benewick, Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Sussex 英國薩塞克斯大學

6. Terry Weidner, University of Montana  蒙塔納大學教授

7. Bienvenido Macario, MEG Macario Foundation, Managing Director

8. Jessica C. Teets, Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Middlebury College 趙娜,明德學院政治學副教授

9. Malcolm McKinnon, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand 紐西蘭維多利亞大學

10. Mark Zupan, president and economics professor, Alfred University  阿爾弗雷德大學校長、經濟學教授

11. Pat LaCourse, Alfred University 阿爾弗雷德大學

12. Mark Sidel, Doyle-Bascom Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison 威斯康辛大學法律與公共事務教授

13. Michael W. Dowdle, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law 新加坡國立大學法學副教授

14. Andre Laliberte, Professor, School of political studies, University of Ottawa, Canada 加拿大渥太華大學政治學教授

15. Nguyen Quang A, Civil Society Forum, Hanoi, Vietnam 越南公民社會論壇

16. Dao Tien Thi, Master of Art, Viet Nam Education Publishing House, Viet Nam 越南教育出版社

Updated on 2/25/20 with 9 more signers:

1. Carsten Vala, Loyola University, Maryland 马里兰州洛约拉大学

2. Warren Sun, Monash University, 孙万国,澳大利亚莫纳虚大学退休研究员

3. Gregor Benton, emeritus Professor, Cardiff University 班国瑞, 加的夫大学荣休教授

4. Alexis G. Clare, Professor of Glass Science, Alfred University 纽约州阿爾弗雷德大學

5. J. Stephen Crosby, (Emeritus) Professor of Theatre, Alfred University纽约州阿爾弗雷德大學
6. Pamela Crossley, Dartmouth College 柯娇燕, 达特茅斯学院

7. Andrew Chubb, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University 朱波, 兰开斯特大学

8. Carolyn L. Hsu, Professor of Sociology, Colgate University  许洛芸,柯盖德大学社会学教授

9. Vicky Westacott, Alfred University 纽约州阿爾弗雷德大學

Updated on 2/27/20 with 5 more signers:

1. John Eipper, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, Adrian College; President, World Association of International Studies  美國阿德里安學院西班牙與拉丁美洲研究教授,世界國際研究協會主席

2. Arolana M. Meissner, University Librarian emerita, Alfred University 美國紐約州阿爾弗雷德大學榮休圖書館員

3. Marina Svensson, professor, Lund University  瑞典隆德大學教授

4. Madeleine Thien, City University of New York  紐約城市大學

5. Sophie Westacott, PhD candidate at Yale University 耶魯大學博士生

Updated on 2/29/20 with 6 more signers:

1. Joseph Fewsmith III, Professor, Boston University 傅士卓,波士頓大學教授

2. Hong Jiang, Associate Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa  姜鴻副教授,夏威夷大學馬諾阿分校

3. Jon Eugene von Kowallis, President, The Oriental Society of Australia

4. Helen Sun, Professor of Communication, The University of Texas-Permian Basin  德克薩斯大學傳媒教授

5. Kian Tajbakhsh, Professor, Columbia University 哥倫比亞大學教授

6. Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania  林霨, 賓夕法尼亞大學國家關係教授

The call for signatures stops today. We thank the 119 international academics who have signed this letter. We apologize to those whose signatures didn’t appear on the publicized list: to keep this list manageable, we limited its scope to academics outside China. We heard you and appreciate your support, which is just as important.

Related reading:

Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go, An Essay by Xu Zhiyong, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé, February 26, 2020.

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