Op-ed: ‘Chinese staff and students are being discredited’
Over the past few weeks, the partnership between the Netherlands and China in general and China’s collaboration with the UG in particular have been widely reported on in the media (including in UKrant). The reporting usually references a recently published report by intelligence services AIVD, MIVD, and NCTV.
It was UKrant who recently wrote that Dutch universities have been the target of direct Chinese espionage, suggesting that China may be using Chinese researchers, PhD candidates, and students as spies.
We understand how this report might lead to a bigger discussion about how we work with Chinese universities and corporations, and it should be. However, we should also realise the impact these stories have on the well-being of our Chinese colleagues (staff members, post-doctoral researchers, PhD candidates) and students.
There are various indications that these people are worried that they are being treated with mistrust or suspicion based on their nationality or cultural background, both within the university and outside it.
Make sure our Chinese colleagues and students continue to feel safe
Our direct colleagues and students, people who work hard every day to improve the quality of research and education at the UG, feel like they are being discredited without any form of evidence that pertains to them personally.
The university fights for an ‘open academic community’, and diversity and inclusion are important standards at the UG. The university needs to ensure that the necessary bigger discussion concerning collaboration with China does not lead to the stigmatisation and exclusion of a specific group of people within its community.
Therefore, we call upon our university community to not lose sight of the individuals involved in these political discussions and to ensure that our Chinese colleagues and students feel appreciated and safe in this academic environment. We feel that both administrators and balanced reporting by the UKrant play a significant role in this.
Erik Heeres (scientific director at the Engineering and Technology Institute Groningen), Jacquelien Scherpen (director of the Groningen Engineering Center), Caspar van der Wal (scientific director at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials), Dirk Slotboom (scientific director at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute) and Harro Meijer (scientific director at the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen)