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China Expels German Student For Interviewing Human Rights Activists, Says Foreigners Must Follow Chinese Laws

Tsinghua University, main administrative building (by pfctdayelise via Wikimedia Commons)

German journalism student David Missal has been expelled from China after he filmed a documentary about human rights activists. 

The 24-year-old was pursuing a master's programme at the prestigious Tsinghua University, in the Chinese capital Beijing. But on Sunday, August 12, he left the country after Chinese immigration authorities shortened his residence permit and denied him a visa extension. 

Missal told Hong Kong Free Press that he had applied for a visa extension two months ago. On August 10 he went to the Entry-Exit Administration and was informed that his visa would not be renewed because he had engaged in activities that were not covered by his student visa. He was told that he had ten days to leave the country. “I asked them what kind of activities did I do… and they said you should know by yourself,” Missal said. He had received a DAAD scholarship for two years.

Missal had submitted a documentary on human rights lawyers for a class project. He was warned twice by the university to stop filming and to avoid sensitive topics, but he decided to go on. He believes the documentary is the reason why he was expelled from China. 

On July 9, 2015, Beijing launched a crackdown on human rights lawyers known as the "709 crackdown". Over 300 lawyers were detained across the country. Some of them were tortured, their family members intimidated. Missal interviewed lawyers and relatives, including Li Wenzu, the wife of human rights attorney Wang Quanzhang, who was arbitrarily detained for 3 years without trial and denied access to a lawyer.

On August 13 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper Global Times published an op-ed slamming Western media's coverage of Missal's expulsion.

The editorial claims that Westerners do not respect Chinese culture and laws. "China has no choice but to deal appropriately with foreigners who do not respect Chinese laws and regulations, and who carry out activities that interfere with China's domestic politics," the piece says, without acknowledging that dissidents and human rights activists are also an integral part of Chinese society.  

"If they [the foreigners] currently fail to understand that, let us give them time to comprehend it. If China is strong enough, this process will gradually take place," the article says, reflecting the CCP's theme of wealth and power.  

The editorial argues that foreigners should abide by Chinese laws just like Chinese abroad abide by foreign laws. "Germany has its own rules, and Chinese students usually won't try to fight against those rules." 

The op-ed claims that Chinese students in the West are suspected of being "spies" (间谍), and that as a result "who knows how many Chinese exchange students have lost the opportunity to study abroad in the long term."

China has often been accused of infringing upon other countries' freedom of speech, which is protected by local laws.

"He [Missal] has neither understood China's politics nor learnt anything from the Chinese people's introverted and humble nature," the piece argues. "Anyway, he's still young, we can't expect too much from him," it adds.  

The "clash of civilizations", the article concludes, is an "important long-term issue" which only "time and China's gradual development" can solve.


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