Chinese Government Accused of Sending Spies to Universities in U.S. and Australia

Thursday, April 24, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Among the growing number of students and professors from China at American and Australian universities are spies working for the Chinese government.


In the United States, some Chinese scholars are not just sharing their expertise, but also gathering information for China’s Communist Party, according to Xia Yeliang, a former Peking University economics professor now working at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.


“Every year among those top universities there are some visiting scholars, and among them I can definitely say there are some people who are actually spies,” Yeliang told Reuters. “They don’t do any research—probably they just do some surveys for their boss,” he added.


Yeliang was reportedly expelled from Peking University last year after blogging about democratic reforms and rule of law in China.


In Australia, most Chinese spies at universities are students, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.


These government agents keep tabs on the activities of other Chinese students and professors, particularly anything that runs counter to Communist ideology.


 “I was interrogated four times in China,” a senior lecturer at a high-ranking Australian university told the Herald, which did not reveal his identity.


The professor said China’s main spy agency questioned him because of comments he made at a seminar about democracy at the University of New South Wales. He added that the agents showed him a report they received about his remarks from a Chinese student in Australia.


Thomas Cushman, a sociology professor at Wellesley College, told Reuters he was concerned that the financial advantages of having Chinese students at a U.S. university could lead to pulling of punches and self-censorship when it comes to discussing topics deemed sensitive to China. “There is a presence of Chinese politics in American universities now that wasn’t there when I started off in academia, and we need to look at it carefully,” he said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

China is Setting Up Covert Spy Networks in US and Australian Universities (by Gwynn Guilford, Quartz)

Dissident Warns China Sending Spies to U.S. in Scholarly Guise (by David Brunnstrom, Reuters)

Chinese Spies Keep Eye on Leading Universities (by John Garnaut, Sydney Morning Herald)

U.S. Universities Help Chinese Dictatorship Spread Propaganda (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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