House committee sends inquiry to Harvard over China conference protest

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Harvard has once again found itself in the crosshairs of a U.S. House committee — this time over an April 20 incident at an annual conference on China held at the Harvard Kennedy School. During the event, student protestors disrupted an address by the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. and were promptly removed from the room.

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party sent a letter to Harvard interim President Alan Garber Monday, asking him questions about security at the event and background information about its organizer, a student group called Greater China Society.

In video footage of the event, two people stand up during the ambassador’s remarks and can be heard shouting as they hold up signs, one reading, “China Lies, People Die.” The protest, as reported by the Harvard Crimson at the time, was organized by activists from Students for a Free Tibet and Coalition of Students Resisting the Chinese Communist Party.

The letter, signed by Rep. John Moolenaar, a Republican from Michigan and chairman of the committee, refers to the “forcible removal” of one of the students after she “protested the Chinese government’s human rights abuses” and alleges the other student was later approached by an event organizer and “asked for the names of (other) protestors” in a form of intimidation.

“This incident raises serious questions regarding possible transnational repression by the Chinese government and the involvement of international students from China at Harvard in acts of harassment and intimidation condoned by the Chinese government against its critics,” Moolenaar wrote.

The probe is the latest inquiry into activities at Harvard since the House-led investigation into antisemitism on campus following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel, and the subsequent war in Gaza. It also comes shortly after a former Berklee College of Music student from China was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Boston federal judge for cyberstalking and threatening someone who posted a flier near campus promoting democracy in China.

Citing this case, the House letter asks “whether our universities are doing enough to educate students about civil liberty and ensure students’ safety for freedom of expression.”

Moolenaar, who became chairman of the committee this past April, asked that Harvard provide a briefing of the incident and respond to the set of 13 questions by July 26.

In addition to questions about the scope of security and handling of the protest, the letter also asks questions about event organizer, the student organization Greater China Society, including whether the group “coordinate(s) its activities with the Chinese government or the Chinese diplomatic missions.”

A spokesman for Harvard declined to comment about the letter on Tuesday.

Two U.S. representatives from Massachusetts — Seth Moulton and Jake Auchincloss — sit on the committee. Both declined to comment about the letter.

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