Rowena He, Associate Professor of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was recently denied a work visa renewal to continue her work, which has led to her being fired by the university. The denial of a visa and the firing appear to be retribution for alleged slander against the Chinese government, as reported by pro-government newspapers. The Committee is concerned that this incident is part of a recurring pattern of abusing Hong Kong’s judicial system to silence dissent.
November 8, 2023
President Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
Xichengqu, Beijing Shi 100017
Dear President Xi Jinping:
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 are writing in regard to Dr. Rowena He, formerly Associate Professor of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who is a Canadian national. In late October 2023, Dr. He was denied a work visa after a long series of delays and questioning by your government. Subsequently, the university fired her, citing the visa denial. These events come on the heels of the Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po newspapers publishing a commentary calling on the university to get rid of “anti-China forces” and specifically naming He for alleged slander against China in a course she taught at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow and for brainwashing students. She remains in the United States, where she was on leave from the university.
The Committee is concerned this incident is part of a recurring pattern of abusing Hong Kong’s judicial system to silence dissent. There is no evidence that shows Dr. He presents a criminal threat to Hong Kong. We urge your government to reinstate Dr. He’s work visa and to ask the university to reinstate her position. Even the appearance of political retaliation against professors should concern your government, as both universities’ ability to recruit promising scholars from abroad and foreign investment will be chilled by Dr. He’s firing.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We will be closely following developments in this case.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
People’s Republic of China
No. 2, Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100701
R. Nicholas Burns
United States Ambassador to China
United States Embassy & Consulates in China
United States Embassy Beijing
55 Anjialou Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Phone: +011 86 10 8531 4000
Fax: +011 86 010 8531 3300