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Talking about human rights may get you stuck in China


A Chinese-born professor at an Australian university and a Taiwanese man experienced interference (and possibly foul play) during their visits to China last week, probably due to their interest in human rights.

Feng Chongyi 冯崇义, a longtime professor at the University of Technology Sydney who studies political reform in China, was barred from leaving the country after a visit during which he had been researching Chinese human rights lawyers, his attorney told (paywall) the New York Times. He was then subjected to multiple rounds of questioning about his field research in China and was pressured to take a lie detector test, which he refused, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The delay in Feng’s travels is a bump in Australia-China relations, which have otherwise been looking increasingly sunny.

Lee Ming-cheh 李明哲, on the other hand, is a community college manager from Taiwan whose more informal discussions of human rights with friends in the mainland through social media may have led to his disappearance (paywall) last week. Lee had entered the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai from nearby Macau, intending to visit his sick mother-in-law, and promptly went missing, sparking an outcry from Taiwan’s ruling government. Both incidents highlight the risk involved in researching — or even discussing — human rights in China, particularly after new legislation (paywall) that more tightly regulates foreign NGOs went into effect this year.


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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.