The College Fix reported that the University of Minnesota has refused to comment on a situation involving a student who was sent to a Chinese prison for a series of Twitter posts he made while he was stateside.
“We just became aware of this situation when media began reaching out yesterday,” university spokesman Jake Ricker told The College Fix in an email on Thursday, January 23, 2020. “The university has not issued a statement on the matter.”
Spokespersons for Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota both remained silent when The College Fix made comment requests.
On Tuesday night, a Chinese-language Twitter account published court documents showing that the 20-year-old University of Minnesota student Daiqing Luo had been arrested back in July in his home city of Wuhan.
According to an Axios report released Wednesday, Luo was charged with posting over 40 tweets that criticized a “national leader.” These tweets included satirical depictions of Chinese President Xi Jinping. One of the tweets featured the infamous Winnie the Pooh image, which has been banned in China after social media users likened the bear to Xi. According to Axios, Luo was in detention for months following his arrest before he received a six month sentence for “provocation.”
“The case represents a dramatic escalation of the Chinese government’s attempts to shut down free speech abroad and a global expansion of a Chinese police campaign to track down Twitter users in China who posted content critical of the Chinese government,” the Axios report indicated.
Ricker, the university spokesman, informed other media outlets the university doesn’t “have any information about the situation.”
Kris Olds, a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The College Fix that American universities should be stepping up to protect their students.
“Given the emergence of select government strategies to engage in surveillance practices regarding students studying abroad, I think universities need to develop comprehensive & up-to-date education programs to ensure their international students know what is happening, why, and how, so that students are fully aware of this evolving situation,” Olds said to The Fix in an e-mail.
“We also have to ensure we treat all of our students, including students studying abroad, and international students studying at US campus, the same with respect to levels of support when troubles emerge due to acts that occur when they are students,” said Olds. “In such a case, this may include legal assistance, consular support, engagement with security units, family support, and so on.”
“All of our registered students deserve equal and fair treatment regardless of their citizenship or location on the planet,” Olds stated.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse demanded that China release Luo. “This is what ruthless and paranoid totalitarianism looks like,” Sasse told Axios.
Thanks to Trump’s confrontational stance with China on the tariff war, China’s façade is off. People are starting to recognize China’s authoritarian legacy, which still lives on in present-day Chinese Communist Party.