US university head warns pro-Beijing students for harassing pro-democracy fellow-Chinese student

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo courtesy: Journal & Courier)

(, Dec19’21) – President Mitch Daniels of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has on Dec 15 condemned Chinese nationalist students in his state who had harassed a Chinese pro-democracy graduate student for openly praising Tiananmen Square protesters in May last year.

In an email to members of the campus community, Daniels, who is a former Republican governor of Indiana from 2005 to 2013, has said the treatment of the student, Kong Zhihao — whom Daniels did not name in the message — was “unacceptable and unwelcome,” reported Dec 17.

Daniels’s email came after a November report by the US media organization ProPublica about how the Chinese government was threatening Chinese students at American universities who openly criticize Beijing, and harassing their families back home.

President Mitch Daniels of Purdue University. (Photo courtesy: Purdue University)

Kong had posted an open letter on a dissident website in May 2020, praising the bravery of students killed during the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989, and his intent to participate in a 31st anniversary online commemoration of the event, organized by rights groups.

Following the above ProPublica report, Kong was followed by Chinese students on campus who accused him of being a CIA spy and threatened to report him to the Chinese Embassy in Washington and to Chinese national security personnel. Chinese state agents were also reported to have also told Kong’s parents to tell their son to cease his actions.

As a result Kong did not give a speech at the commemoration event because of concern for the safety of his family.

Daniels has called it regrettable that the university was not aware of the incident which it had learned about only through news reports. He has warned that if the identity of the students who threatened Kong could be confirmed, they would face appropriate disciplinary action.

He has also said students who exercised freedom of speech and belief but directed them against other students or reported to a foreign entity would be subject to severe sanctions.


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