• Sheet of paper Report

“On My Campus, I Am Afraid” – China’s Targeting of Overseas Students Stifles Rights

Demonstrators protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in solidarity with protesters in China on December 3, 2022 in Berlin, Germany
(Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

China is one of the most significant origin countries for international students studying abroad. As the Chinese government has recognized, international academic exchanges contribute to China’s economic and social development, providing opportunities to share and broaden scientific, political and cultural knowledge and ideas.

For many Chinese students, traveling abroad offers the opportunity to flourish free from the restrictions placed on political and academic discourse at home. For some, it is also the first step towards a lifetime of engagement with a global academic community. However, many international students from China are living and studying with the constant fear of being targeted under China and Hong Kong’s national security and intelligence laws and regulations, or otherwise being subjected to surveillance, harassment or intimidation by Chinese authorities or their agents in connection with the exercise of their human rights.

This report seeks to broaden awareness of the impacts of government repression on Chinese international students studying on university campuses across Western Europe and North America. It is based on new research by Amnesty International conducted between June 2023 and April 2024 on the ability of international students from China to freely exercise their human rights on university campuses overseas. In-depth interviews were conducted with 32 Chinese students who studied at universities in eight Western Europe and North America countries between 2018 and 2023.

The failure to meaningfully address the fears of international students and the resulting chilling effect on university campuses risks the perpetuation of a system in which the ability of some students to exercise their rights is more secure than others. It also deprives impacted individuals – as well as researchers and teachers in host countries – of the opportunity to receive and benefit from the free thoughts, ideas and opinions of their colleagues, impeding academic exchanges and undermining the principle of academic freedom on campuses across affected regions.

Read, “On My Campus, I Am Afraid” – China’s Targeting of Overseas Students Stifles Rights.