CESS Statement on Chinese Sanctions

The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) is a professional association, founded in 2000, with over 500 members worldwide. The society facilitates communication and interaction among scholars of the Central Eurasian region and promotes high standards of scholarship and instruction about the Central Eurasia region, cooperation among people and organizations concerned with the scholarly study of Central Eurasia, and educating the public about Central Eurasia.

The Society has learned that in March 2021, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that it has imposed sanctions against several EU and UK scholars, prohibiting them from entering China, freezing any assets they have in China, and preventing Chinese citizens and institutions from doing business with them. These scholars include Björn Jerdén (Director of the Swedish National China Centre at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs), Jo Smith Finley (Reader in Chinese Studies at Newcastle University, UK), and Adrian Zenz (Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, United States). These sanctions were imposed in response to these scholars’ work, which includes research on international crimes and human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Chinese government has also sanctioned several institutions, including the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin.

The Society categorically rejects the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s charge that the sanctioned scholars have engaged in “lies and disinformation,” confirms its unconditional commitment to academic freedom, and expresses solidarity with these and other persecuted colleagues. It calls on the Chinese government to revoke these sanctions immediately. The Society notes that such sanctions violate UNESCO’s 1997 Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, available here, and threaten to reduce academic freedom worldwide through their impact on the global scholarly community and international academic exchange. The Society notes that sanctions against UK and EU scholars are just the latest action by the Chinese government against academic freedom. Earlier actions have subjected scholars in China, particularly those of Uyghur background, to a variety of punitive actions, including dismissal from academic posts, exile, forced disappearance, criminal punishment, and inhumane treatment during incarceration.