Youthful activism edition

Plus profiling in academic research and your thoughts on China’s warning to students

Protests Around the Globe

It’s been hard to take my eyes off Hong Kong this past week, as my favorite city has been convulsed with protests against legislation that would have permitted extradiction to mainland China. Just hours before I sat down to write this, on Saturday morning in California, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam announced she would suspend her push to enact the bill.

The demonstrations have notably drawn Hong Kongers from all walks of life, young and old, activists and corporate executives, lawyers and shopkeepers and retirees. But high-school and college students have again played a major role, just as they did five years ago during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. They have marched and organized sit-ins, they have sometimes clashed with police. Several have been arrested, several have been injured. In other countries, including Britain, Japan, and Taiwan, students have demonstrated in solidarity with Hong Kong.

Campuses, of course, have historically played a major role in protest movements, from the fight for civil rights in America to the push to end apartheid in South Africa to Tiananmen Square.

Today, Hong Kong is in the spotlight. But it is not alone. Universities and academics are leading the call for civil disobedience in Sudan in the wake of a military crackdown. In Brazil, hundreds of thousands of students and professors have rallied against harsh government cuts to education budgets. Marxist students in China have mobilized to support workers’ rights – and several of their leaders have gone missing, apparently taken into custody by authorities. Here in the U.S., some of the loudest voices in the #MeToo movement have been on college campuses.

It can be easy to be all “kids today…” and opine about apathetic Gen Zers. But around the world, kids today are standing up for what they believe.

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Criminalizing Chinese Ties

Bloomberg Businessweek has a fascinating longread about one of the researchers forced to resign by MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is affiliated with the University of Texas system,  because of alleged foreign ties. An award-winning epidemiologist and a naturalized U.S. citizen, Xifeng Wu had spent 27 years doing oncological research at the academic medical center.

She hadn’t been “charged with stealing anyone’s ideas,” Businessweek’s Peter Waldman writes, “but in effect she stood accused of secretly aiding and abetting cancer research in China, an un-American activity in today’s political climate.”

Wu’s case is part of a sharp uptick in espionage charges brought against defendants with Chinese surnames, a “quasi-criminalization” of what had previously been acceptable work behavior, the magazine suggests. Yet, just one in five of the Chinese-named defendants has been found guilty. This isn’t a new thing under the Trump administration, although it may have been accelerated. I wrote a couple of years ago about the apparent singling out of Chinese scientists and the efforts of one such professor to clear his name.

Meanwhile, Bill Bishop, who writes the popular Sinocism blog, has a somewhat contrary take on the potential profiling of Chinese-born scientists. On Twitter, he shared the perspective of a relative who formerly worked in a U.S. national lab: “Probably 80 percent are guilty.” The rules on foreign collaboration were lax and rarely enforced, he writes:

Your Takes

Last week’s newsletter focused on the Chinese government’s warning to students about the “risk” of studying in the United States – and the commensurate risk that cutting off Chinese students could cause to colleges. Some of you shared thoughts:

Let’s keep the conversation going – if you have insight on the impact of the Sino-U.S. showdown on your campus’ enrollments or suggestions about how higher education might respond, share it! I’m at or @karinfischer.

Around the Globe

New guidance from the Department of Homeland Security clarifies that I-20 visa paperwork can only be issued to international students – or, if they are minors, to their parents – not to recruiters or third-party agents.

English-language enrollments are down again, but the rate of decline is slower than the previous year. Could the bottom be in sight?

Professors in China who express “wrong opinions” could lose their teaching qualifications under new regulations.

A group of U.S. institutions – including the Universities of Oregon and Tulsa and the Rochester Institute of Technology – will now accept the gao kao, the Chinese college entrance exam, for admission, in some cases for this fall.

Another college is going test-optional – and this time, international students are included in the new policy.

Is Canada’s competitive edge in international recruitment ephemeral?

A new paper predicts increased competition for talented international students, not just among wealthy countries but with emerging economies.

An Arizona congressman plans to introduce legislation to kill OPT, the work program for international graduates.

Japan will ban certain universities from enrolling foreign students after one institution lost contact with more than 1,600 students enrolled there.

Nepal has abruptly barred students from going abroad for language or diploma courses. The government said it was concerned that students were enrolling in poor-quality schools or were not actually showing up for classes.

And finally…

I went to college with a hero – a CNN Hero, that is. My Smith classmate Luma Mufleh was honored in 2016 for her work establishing a soccer program, and later an entire school, devoted to refugees.

In this moving essay, she talks about filing for asylum herself because she faced ostracism – and perhaps even death – as a gay Muslim in her native Jordan:

“I would lose my family, my country,” she writes, “but I would be free….It has turned out that America is indeed a special country where I have not only survived but thrived. Where else could a Muslim woman from Jordan marry a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest and happily raise three children together?”

’Til next week – Karin

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