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Chinese National Security Law impacting students at UK universities

The Chinese National Security Law (NSL), which forced many pro-Democracy Hong Kong citizens to leave the city, is having an affect on UK universities.

The NSL is highly controversial due to its ambiguous terminology and potential for life sentences. It was introduced by decree in Hong Kong and encroached on the free speech and privacy of Hong Kong citizens.

Article 38 of the NSL is having a wider affect on UK universities as it allows for persons to be prosecuted for offences committed “from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region”.

This leaves Hong Kong and Chinese students at risk of been prosecuted for offences committed while attending university in the UK upon their return home.

A live panel discussion on “We Have Boots” held by the Screening Rights Film Festival, an event for third-year Film Studies students at Warwick, had already been cancelled under “significant concerns about the wellbeing of students and staff in China who are connecting to live and recorded events about sensitive topics”.

Other students have also expressed their concerns. A second-year PPE undergraduate from HK, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he would “remain silent if possible during seminars to avoid having his words being used against him” .

Shaun Breslin, professor of Politics and International Studies at Warwick, told the BBC: We don’t record seminars, you can’t associate a specific set of words or opinions with individuals, and we’ve sent out lots of reminders about etiquette.” 

We don’t record seminars, you can’t associate a specific set of words or opinions with individuals, and we’ve sent out lots of reminders about etiquette

– Shaun Breslin

Hong Kong students at Warwick remain anxious at the influence of the NSL on campus, with one student saying the measures currently in place “may help prevent our speech from being leaked accidentally, but is of no use against deliberate efforts to surveil us”.

Concerns have also been raised about the influence of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) on campuses throughout the UK. An official Westminster report detailed how CSSA chapters had been active in attacking pro-Hong Kong protests at UK universities.   

As for Warwick, its CSSA chapter is currently active, although not registered in the Students’ Union (SU). It acted as a signatory in an open letter against the Lennon wall erected by the student activist group named Warwick4HK (W4HK) November last year, alongside Warwick Chinese Society and Warwick China Development Society. 

After the incident, a member of W4HK was reportedly photographed secretly during a seminar by a Chinese classmate, while another member had ostensibly been receiving death threats after displaying protest materials within their own room, as certain Chinese students were found discussing the method and armaments they should use.

Warwick CSSA was consequently praised by the Embassy of China for its important role in the incident, and overseas students were encouraged to contact the CSSA when similar incidents were to happen. 

The University has been contacted for comment over the presence of the CSSA on campus.

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