As China surveils American colleges, UChicago releases statement on CCP detaining former student

As American universities come under scrutiny for their ties with China, the University of Chicago issued a statement about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) detaining protesters.

China’s long arm of surveillance reaches American universities through a spy network sending information to authorities who can intimidate international students’ families back home.

As American universities come under scrutiny for their ties with China, the University of Chicago issued a statement regarding the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) detaining protesters. 

“Members of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago (CEAS) are aware that people, including a former student of the University of Chicago, have recently been detained in China due to their participation in peaceful protests where people held blank sheets of paper to express dissent to the government’s Zero Covid policy,” the statement reads. 

“The detained University of Chicago alumna is Qin Ziyi 秦梓奕,” CEAS continued. “She graduated from the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences in 2017 with a concentration in Sociology.”

Chinese protesters–and Chinese students attending American universities–face severe backlash for opposing the CCP’s strict Zero Covid policies. During the height of tensions in the fall of 2022, protesters lashed out over tragic deaths attributed to lockdowns.

[RELATED: READ: PROF. GIORDANO: American universities are ‘turning a blind eye’ to ‘foreign influence’ on campuses]

In one incident, protesters asserted that lockdowns prevented residents from escaping an apartment complex fire that killed at least ten people. Quarantining in China, The New York Times reported, could mean “doors wired or welded shut or emergency exits blockaded.”

Though the CCP responded by ending Zero Covid, China is making an example out of peaceful protesters. Some of the identified detainees “are a more general warning to others who might have drawn inspiration from the protests,” and vague charges could land them up to five years in prison, according to The New York Times

Like Qin Ziyi, other detainees obtained degrees abroad. Goldsmiths, University of London published a statement on “alumnus Li Siqi,” who the CCP reportedly detained “after taking part in a peaceful vigil to remember the victims of the Xinjiang fire.”

The statement says that the university responded with “a private letter to the Chinese Ambassador in London” and is “looking to work with groups like Amnesty International to help support the release of those detained.”

A spokesperson with Goldsmiths told Campus Reform that the university has “yet to receive a response from the Chinese Ambassador.”  

”We continue to work with Amnesty International to help support our students and graduates,” the spokesperson continued. 

China’s long arm of surveillance and punishment even reaches American universities. 

During the Zero Covid protests, Campus Reform obtained flyers posted at George Washington University alleging a network of CCP spies. This network, ProPublica reported, monitors international students and sends information to Chinese authorities, who can intimidate students’ families back home. 

Against the backdrop of these security threats, Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Chairwoman of the Education and Workforce Committee, decided to continue investigations into foreign donations to American universities. 

With its research dollars and students, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in a Fox News interview, “the Chinese Communist Party’s inside every major American university today.”

[RELATED: Florida Rep. seeks to stop CCP from infiltrating American universities]

Foxx is picking up investigations dropped by President Biden into universities that failed to report foreign donations, including the University of Pennsylvania–which oversees the Penn Biden Center–and the University of Chicago. 

For its response to the detained former student, the University of Chicago is hosting a “teach-in series” that asks, “Where will the insurgent political energy unleashed in November go from here?” 

“The rapid shifts that China has undergone over the past three years–from the implementation of Zero-COVID policies to the lifting of most restrictions and ensuing chaos, from a wave of protests in November to the detentions and arrests of participants–have left many confused and concerned,” a series description reads.

“Communication with colleagues, friends, and family members in China has become difficult, as public expressions of social concern may be criminalized.” 

Participants can register anonymously and may use pseudonyms. 

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.