Yale’s ‘Anonymous’

Peng Shuai plays in the Australian Open on January 21, 2021. (Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters)

The Yale Daily News granted anonymity to a Chinese student who published a column on Peng Shuai’s disappearance by the Chinese Communist Party. The student paper’s editors explained why they published the piece that way:

Editor’s Note: The News has granted the author of this piece anonymity due to a risk to their family’s safety. The author is a University student with family in China who might be harmed by the piece being published with the author’s name. As a policy, the News does not accept anonymous submissions. However, we believed this piece could not be published without guaranteeing the author’s anonymity.

It’s an important piece that, fitting in with other recent events, deserves attention:

As a concerned Yale student, who has to remain anonymous for fear of putting those I love in danger, I’m writing to you so that she won’t be forgotten. We won’t forget her. And I want to tell you what I think #WhereIsPengShuai is really about. If we trivialize Peng Shuai’s allegations as just another social media hashtag, what she did will be for nothing…

The Yale endowment needs to divest from China. The track record of the CCP has made it more than clear that every dollar of investment in China is unethical, until the CCP is willing to positively respond to, and act on, allegations by Peng Shuai and many others. Despite having a significant Chinese portfolio, which includes top-earning tech companies like Tencent and JD.com, the Yale Investments Office currently has no publicly available ethical policy specific to China or a review of its ethical implications.

There are two critical points to take from this.

First, a counter-CCP campus divestment movement is taking shape, and this piece serves as a reminder of its significance. In October, Catholic University of America’s student government voted to support the school’s divestment from firms implicated in the Uyghur genocide, leading school officials to pledge to take steps toward that goal.

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Rory O’Connor of the Athenai Institute, the group coordinating a nationwide boycott campaign, told me at the time that his organization is targeting a number of other schools across the country in the coming months.

Second, the op-ed is another reminder that Chinese students critical of Beijing on American college campuses face harassment — often from their peers — and can even lead the authorities back home to target their families. Worst, of all, most college administrators have failed to speak out decisively about this.

Purdue’s Mitch Daniels is the exception here. The former Indiana governor and current university president responded to a ProPublica report on the harassment of one of his students with a blistering, campus-wide message in December. “Joining the Purdue community requires acceptance of its rules and values, and no value is more central to our institution or to higher education generally than the freedom of inquiry and expression,” wrote Daniels. “Those seeking to deny those rights to others, let alone to collude with foreign governments in repressing them, will need to pursue their education elsewhere.”

Other higher-education administrators seeking to emulate Daniels face significant headwinds, including, potentially, the risk to their own schools’ ties to China and blowback from other Chinese students. (A group of Purdue students is already circulating a petition attacking Daniels’s “biased statement.”) Taking a stand can cost institutions of higher learning some lucrative opportunities.

But neglecting to divest university endowments of investments in Chinese firms is a major moral failing and a de facto endorsement of the brutal Leninist dictatorship in Beijing. Neglecting to adequately protect Chinese students on campus, meanwhile, enables an unacceptable situation in which even students on U.S. soil feel incapable of engaging in important academic and political debates without putting themselves and their families at risk.

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