Xiyue Wang, a graduate student at Princeton University, has now been incarcerated in Iran’s Evin prison for over three years. He was jailed in 2016, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was in Iran conducting pre-approved research on his Ph.D. dissertation when he was apprehended. CCS is writing the President of the People’s Republic of China requesting his assistance in obtaining the release of Xiyue Wang. Additionally, there is a statement from the Network of Concerned Historians with a summary of this case; and a template for a letter provided by Scholars at Risk that everyone may use to send letters advocating for the release of Xiyue Wang addressed to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Please copy the letter, or use it as a model for your own letter, sign your name and forward it to Khamenei in support of Xiyue Wang.
August 23, 2019
His Excellency Xi Jinping
The State Council General Office
Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017
People’s Republic of China
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to thank you for your reported willingness to intervene on behalf of Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born United States citizen and graduate student at Princeton University in the United States. We hope that the government of China will find a way to save this young scholar from unjustly languishing in Iran’s Evin Prison where he has been for over three years.
We know that your government, and the government of the United States, have both expressed their support for the immediate release of Xiyue Wang, but it is unclear what is actually being done in terms of communicating with the Iranian authorities for his release.
Xiyue Wang was falsely jailed in Iran in 2016, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison; he was, in fact, in Iran simply to conduct research on ancient documents for his Ph.D. dissertation for which he had obtained advanced permission both from his university and the Iranian authorities.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that Iran had “no legal basis for the arrest and detention” of Xiyue, that Xiyue suffered “multiple violations” of his right to a fair trial, and that he should be released “immediately.”
The European University Association, representing over 800 universities and national university associations in 48 European countries, has called Xiyue’s conviction and imprisonment an “alarming violation of academic freedom, due process and fair trial, which are fundamental and internationally-recognized rights and standards.”
We agree, and we urge you to use your influence to convince the government of Iran to release Xiyue Wang and allow him to continue his studies. Xiyue must be allowed to return to his wife and young son, Shaofan, who has lived more than half his life without his father.
Thank you for your attention and willingness to help in this most important matter, and we look forward to hearing what you are doing to correct this grave injustice.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Ambassador Cui Tiankai
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 1 202 495 2266
Fax: 1 202 495 2138
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Summary of Xiyue Wang’s Case by the Network of Concerned Historians:
This is the fourth appeal of the Network of Concerned Historians (NCH) for Chinese-born American history student Xiyue Wang. Today marks three years since Iranian authorities arrested him; he has been wrongfully imprisoned ever since. We ask you to join Scholars at Risk (SAR) in calling for his immediate release.
** Download the SAR template letter here (indirectly via the SAR website) or here (directly as a text in Word).
** For a link to the four NCH circulars in this case, click here, here, here, and here.
** Please find below a NCH summary of the case.
With best wishes,
Antoon De Baets
(Network of Concerned Historians)
NCH SUMMARY OF THE CASE (as of 7 August 2019)
On 7 August 2016, Xiyue Wang ([1980–]), a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of History at Princeton University and a China-born naturalized United States citizen since 2009, was detained and confined to Evin Prison in Tehran while in Iran since January 2016 to study Farsi and do Ph.D. research into late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, particularly comparing governance practices across multiple countries. After he left Iran he was planning to continue his research in Russia. Wang’s research had been approved by the Iranian government, allowing him to review old texts (mostly newspaper clippings published between 1880 and 1921) that had nothing to do with contemporary Iranian politics and were not confidential. Wang was interested in archives about the administrative and cultural history of the Qajar dynasty (1785–1925) in Tehran and Mashhad. He spent his first eighteen days in solitary confinement. In February 2017, Wang was charged with “espionage” and “collaboration with [a hostile state]”, widely believed to be fabricated. In April 2017 the Revolutionary Court convicted him and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment. On 16 July 2017, the judiciary’s Mizan News Agency said that he was “sent” by Princeton University to “infiltrate” Iran, that he had connections to American and British intelligence agencies. The agency also declared that Wang had illicitly scanned 4,500 pages of digital documents and had done “highly confidential research for the U.S. Department of State, Harvard Kennedy School and British Institute of Persian Studies.” Wang’s appeal of his sentence was denied later in August 2017; a court upheld his conviction and ten years’ imprisonment in a trial behind closed doors. On 5 December 2017, Wang was transferred to Ward 7; he was told that he would be with Taliban and other prisoners who have badly beaten him in the past. On 23 August 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbritrary Detention concluded that Iran had no legal basis for Wang’s arrest and detention, and that he should be released immediately. Mary Beth Norton, president of the American Historical Association, wrote a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressing “deep concern” about Wang’s 10-year prison sentence. Wang continued to be held at Evin Prison and reported difficult conditions, including receiving only occasional visits from a prison physician despite his deteriorating physical and mental health — including arthritis, rashes, pains, diarrhea, severe depression, and ill-treatment — and receiving violent threats against his life by a fellow inmate.
Website about Xiyue Wang: https://sites.google.
Sample Letter by Scholars at Risk:
August 25, 2019
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o H.E. Mr. Gholamali Khoshroo
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017, USA
RE: Release PhD Candidate Xiyue Wang
I write to express grave concern over the imprisonment of Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University PhD candidate, in connection with his peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom. I urge the Iranian authorities to secure Mr. Wang’s unconditional release and, pending this, to ensure his right to humane treatment and due process.
Mr. Wang, who holds US citizenship, specializes in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history. I understand from Scholars at Risk (SAR), that, in May 2016, he travelled to Iran to research the Qajar dynasty for his dissertation and to continue his language studies. With the approval of his research plan from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang gained access to public documents dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries at archives and libraries in Tehran. He ordered copies of these documents for later review. On August 7, 2016, Iranian authorities arrested Mr. Wang and placed him in solitary confinement, where he remained for 18 days. Mr. Wang has been in prison ever since. On July 16, 2017, the Iranian judiciary reported that Mr. Wang had been convicted and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for “espionage” and “collaboration with [a hostile state],” based on allegations that Mr. Wang had “gathered secret and top secret [intelligence]” for the U.S. State Department, among other foreign government entities.
Mr. Wang’s family and Princeton University officials have rebutted these claims, insisting that he has no connection to government or intelligence agencies and that he only traveled to Iran as a part of his studies. Conducting research in the national archive and other state libraries in Iran is subject to a lengthy approval process and heavy oversight, which includes interviews by security staff about the content of research and the researcher’s academic background; formal, written requests for the documents or materials to be reviewed; and scanning of approved materials by archives personnel. This level of oversight raises significant questions about Mr. Wang’s ability to access “secret or top secret” intelligence in the course of his work.
On August 17, 2017, it was reported that Iranian authorities had denied Mr. Wang’s appeal, upholding his 10-year prison sentence. I understand from SAR that Mr. Wang is currently being held at Evin Prison, where he has reported difficult conditions; suffering from deteriorating health — including arthritis, rashes, pains, diarrhea, severe depression, and ill-treatment — and receiving violent threats against his life by a fellow inmate.
On August 23, 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion that concluded that the government of Iran had “no legal basis for the arrest and detention of Mr. Wang,” and that “his deprivation of liberty is arbitrary.” According to the Working Group, the government of Iran violated Mr. Wang’s “peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression” and his right to a fair trial, and further emphasized that “no trial of Mr. Wang should have taken place.” The Working Group called for the immediate release of Mr. Wang and his urgent transfer to a hospital.
Absent any information that may clarify our understanding of these events, the facts as described above suggest that Mr. Wang was convicted and sentenced in apparent connection with his peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. In addition to the harm to Mr. Wang and his family, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.
I therefore respectfully urge you to release Mr. Wang unconditionally, and drop any charges that stem from his peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom; and, pending this, to ensure immediately his well-being while in prison, including humane treatment and access to medical care, books, legal counsel, and family; and to ensure his case is addressed in a manner consistent with internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, and the humane treatment of prisoners, in accordance with Iran’s obligations under international law.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to your response.
The Honorable Hassan Rouhani
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Palestine Avenue, Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq.
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani
Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave. (South of Serah-e Jomhouri)
Tehran 1316814737, Islamic Republic of Iran
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 USA
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
The Honorable Anna Segall
Director of the Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs, UNESCO
7 place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP, France
The Honorable Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland