Many thanks to Freedom House for its latest report on how China is bullying organizations — and governments — around the world into preventing dissidents from having a forum
The most recent in a growing list of these transnational censorship efforts involves the University of Sydney, one of Australia’s most respected institutions of higher education. According to a Reuters report, the university’s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights had invited the Dalai Lama to speak at a campus forum during his planned visit to the country in June. Subsequently, university authorities demanded that the event be moved off campus, that the university logo not be displayed, that there be no press coverage, and that attendance by campaigners for a free Tibet be barred. Not surprisingly, organizers called off the event instead.
The university administration’s intervention came in a context of increasingly close economic ties between China and Australia. Trade between the two countries has mushroomed in recent years, reaching $120 billion in 2011. Earlier, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, a move that triggered strong criticism. As for the University of Sydney, it has recently opened a Confucius Institute, part of an international network of facilities funded and overseen by the Chinese government that provide instruction on Chinese culture and language. It is unclear whether Chinese officials directly asked university leaders to disinvite the Dalai Lama or the administration took preemptive action. The initial result, in any event, was a serious blow to the once-sacred value of academic freedom.