Six foot student life: Proud of China

In the new Strategic Partnership Policy of the University of Groningen, the Board of the University claims to be very proud of the cooperation with the Chinese Jilin University. Next to that, they claim that we, as the academic community of Groningen, highly appreciate this partnership and hold it in high regard. In the past, I have written some columns and held several speeches in the University Council on the cooperation between the University of Groningen and the Chinese Communist Party (which has been indicated as a transnational criminal organization by several countries) and its universities. The question arises: Is Jilin University truly a partner to be proud of?

The Jilin University, located in the eponymous Chinese province, is one of the most prestigious universities of China – according to its alumni, who are mostly high-ranking officials of the Chinese Communist Party. A high level of ‘We are the Jilin University, and we approve this message’, so to speak.

The university has a total of 75.000 students, 22.000 employees, and a total of 47 faculties including several regional hospitals. The University has several high-ranking officials as its alumni, including the Head of Propaganda of the CCP, the minister of Social Security, and the minister of Justice. We can conclude it’s not a cowpat-strewn-of-the beaten track-meadow of One-or-the-other University.

The University plays a meaningful role in the several human rights issues of China as well. For example in the persecution of all religious people in China, the only allowed faith is the faith in the Communist Party. The persecution of the Uyghurs for example. Next to that, the practitioners of Falun Gong, the largest spiritual movement in China. 

Take a quick Google Search on ‘Jilin University Falun Gong,’ then you will read how a professor of Agriculture got extradited by her own Jilin University to a concentration camp, where she got humiliated, tortured, and mutilated. She got extradited by her own administration to a regime, knowingly what would happen to her. After all, the persecution of the Falun Gong started a year earlier.

Many others at Jilin University share her fate. The renowned professor Wang Weidong had the same happen to her. Only she didn’t get sent off to a concentration camp but got questioned on the Southern Campus of the Jilin University itself. 

Five more teachers and professors of the Jilin University, all Falun Gong practitioners, were betrayed by the University Administration, extradited to the officials, sent off to camps, tortured and/or murdered.

If you take a look at the second article in your Google Search, you will read how the Jilin University First Hospital, the Jilin equivalent to the UMCG, is being actively linked to organ harvesting. From captured Christians, Muslims, Tibetians, Buddhists, and Falun Gong, organs are removed from living prisoners and transplanted to rich foreigners. The transplantation of organs has been confirmed by the Chinese Department of Health. If a Chinese hospital does not cooperate with this program, it is not possible to be designated as a transplantation hospital.

The new Strategic Plan of the University of Groningen has the working title: ‘Connection of borders’. I hope these are not the borders of the basic human rights. In this plan, the University speaks of respecting freedom of speech and securing academic freedom. Logically, this makes cooperation with the Jilin University, and all other Chinese Universities for that matter, impossible.

A report to the American Congress states that Chinese Universities are all in a sphere of influence, in which human rights and academic freedom are increasingly being limited. According to this investigation, it is not possible for individual Western Universities to prevent censorship and self-censoring in its educational programs in cooperation with these universities. Next to that, students who are critical of the Chinese regime are being arrested, persecuted, and jailed. Comparing Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh resulted in 6 months of imprisonment for a Chinese exchange student at the University of Minnesota, when returning to China. This raises the question of how safe Chinese students in Groningen feel, now the bonds between the UG and the Chinese Communist Party are so strong.

The Jilin University goes even further in limiting the freedom of its students and staff, as its rewarding ECTS to students and employees when their propaganda is being shared on Chinese state media and the commercial Chinese media. Furthermore, this Chinese University considers propagating the accomplishments of the Chinese regime in Western media an academic accomplishment on its own.

I hope the University of Groningen will retract its statement and revise its strategy. Because when the Administration of this University considers this to be a cooperation to be proud of, there is a serious issue on our hands.