Stop repressing Hong Kong's freedom of speech in the name of political correctness

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Recently, Professor Jon Solomon (蘇哲安) at Lyon III University - Jean Moulin initiated a petition to request the President’s Office of the University of Hong Kong to investigate Dr. Kwok-Yung Yuen (袁國勇) and reconsider his appointment at the university. Solomon’s petition is an act of white privilege and is complicit with Beijing’s crackdown on freedom of speech in Hong Kong, all in the name of political correctness.

Dr. Yuen is a leading virologist in the world and has been in the scientific frontier of unveiling the secrets of SARS, H1N1 bird flu, and COVID-19. His research publications are among the most widely cited in the field. On March 18, he and his co-author published an op-ed article in Mingpao (明報) that questioned the practice of wild meat eating in China. They criticized the Chinese government for spreading the misinformation about the US-origin of the COVID-19 virus. The article is by no means offensive, and its views have been shared by many in the Chinese public sphere. But the article invoked a firestorm of online abuse in mainland Chinese social media accusing Dr. Yuen of being “unpatriotic” and embarrassing the Chinese government. It made Dr. Yuen and his co-author withdraw the article from the newspaper, even before Solomon started his petition.

Solomon’s petition accused Yuen of promoting “colonial racism” by criticizing the practice of wild meat eating in China. It is ironic that Yuen, who is Chinese by ethnicity, is judged by a white man for being “racist” against the Chinese because he criticized certain practices and the government in China.

The tradition of Chinese intellectuals criticizing Chinese culture and practices as an exercise of cultural self-reflection has a long history since the New Culture Movement in early-twentieth-century China. This tradition has traveled to many Chinese majority nations and communities around the world. Solomon’s petition itself is an ironic manifestation of white privilege. It illustrates the arrogant assumption that a white man, equipped with some opaque academic jargon, is in an authoritative position to screen the speech of the Chinese-language intellectual public sphere and judge which opinion is politically incorrect and needs to be censored.

The most disturbing aspect of Solomon’s petition is that he is not resorting to public intervention to express his disagreement and debate with Dr. Yuen. Instead, he is appealing to the University of Hong Kong to investigate and consider firing its faculty member for his speech. It came at a time when the Chinese Communist Party has been mobilizing its official media and its protégé in Hong Kong to ask universities to persecute faculty member for their dissenting voice. Intentional or not, Solomon is complicit with Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and academic freedom in the name of political correctness.

We, unlike Solomon, have not appealed to the university that employs him to investigate his white supremacist act and complicity with the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of constitutionally protected freedoms in Hong Kong. We are here to ask Solomon to withdraw his petition and make a public apology to Dr. Yuen.

Source of the original petition raised by Jon Solomon:

https://www.change.org/p/president-s-office-university-of-hong-kong-call-on-hku-to-investigate-and-condemn-colonial-racism?recruiter=1057541022&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=279878013a114151b36d1f5127a796fa&recruited_by_id=59608250-6aea-11ea-b774-fbac4d01ace9&fbclid=IwAR0x0hAwLR3gK1VxIY6hoFeUid2pCkLyhYnj2IiIAdOBBTk2uLOq-TUHgc8

Source of Dr Yuen’s original article in Chinese:

https://news.mingpao.com/ins/%E6%96%87%E6%91%98/article/20200318/s00022/1584457829823/%E5%A4%A7%E6%B5%81%E8%A1%8C%E7%B7%A3%E8%B5%B7%E6%AD%A6%E6%BC%A2-%E5%8D%81%E4%B8%83%E5%B9%B4%E6%95%99%E8%A8%93%E7%9B%A1%E5%BF%98%EF%BC%88%E6%96%87-%E9%BE%8D%E6%8C%AF%E9%82%A6-%E8%A2%81%E5%9C%8B%E5%8B%87%EF%BC%89

English-media sources on Yuen’s article and its withdrawal:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/coronavirus-outbreak-underscores-potential-health-risks-in-chinas-wild-animal-trade/2020/01/25/5f5353be-3f6f-11ea-971f-4ce4f94494b4_story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/03/19/world/asia/19reuters-health-coronavirus-hongkong.html