AAS Statement on Chinese Government Sanctions

Statement by the AAS Board of Directors
March 29, 2021

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS), a scholarly, non-political, non-profit professional association with approximately 6,500 members worldwide, wishes to express its solidarity and support for our esteemed colleague and member, Professor Joanne Smith Finley of the University of Newcastle, UK, who is one of nine people sanctioned on March 26, 2021, by the Chinese Foreign Ministry for ostensibly “maliciously spread[ing] lies and disinformation.”

Professor Smith Finley is a respected scholar and an elected member of the China and Inner Asia Council of the AAS. She organized two valuable panel sessions at the recently concluded 2021 AAS Annual Conference that examined Chinese state policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Her research, like that of other AAS members, manifests scholarly scruples, analytical forthrightness, and a balanced but critical approach. It highlights the obligation of scholarship to examine and acknowledge significant social issues. The sanctioning of Prof. Smith Finley and members of her immediate family represents a reprehensible blow to academic freedom under the terms of UNESCO’s 1997 Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, which calls upon all UN member states to protect the freedom of thought, expression, and movement of higher education teaching personnel and, in particular, the right to disseminate freely the results of their research. 

As a community of scholars, the AAS regrets the levying of sanctions by the Chinese Foreign Ministry against individual researchers and scholarly organizations. These actions quell the production of knowledge and hinder the capacity of researchers to provide national and international publics, policy makers, and academe well-informed analyses of Chinese society, politics, and culture.