Tartu university pulls China-critical social media post

University of Tartu.
University of Tartu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The University of Tartu has removed an article from its social media page which was critical of China, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) reports. The article was penned by university students from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong students Litman Huang and Aubrey Yung covered the Hong Kong protests in their opinion piece in the light of a security law passed by China in late May, the EPL editoral reports (link in Estonian).

The article has been published in Estonian by daily Postimees.

It was initially posted on the university's Facebook page, but pulled a few hours later, with a university spokesperson saying a superior had ordered them to do so, EPL reports.

University communications manager Iivika Eljand-Kärp justified the removal of the article by stating that the university does not participate in foreign policy debates, though EPL says the university has at the same time supported other political and international issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and explored Russian influence on Estonia and Europe as a whole.

The original article in English itself is still available on the university's site, however, and explains how the law passed on May 28 makes any "secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference" activities in Hong Kong illegal and punishable with prison sentences, with China able to set up security agencies in Hong Kong – a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China – to ensure its implementation.

The article goes on to criticize China's one-party system and Hong Kong's 70-representative assembly, half of whom – including those representing vested interests such as insurance companies – not elected directly by one person, one vote.

The piece also connects the situation in Hong Kong with Estonia's own experiences under communism and says promises made in the 1980s ahead of Hong Kong's transferal from British rule to Chinese rule have not been kept.

It also warns of becoming economically dependent upon China via exports, raw materials, finance and tech, which it says can have a creeping effect and will rope in those who financially benefit from deals to support for continued good relations with China.

EPL's sister publication, investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress, published a piece in February (link in Estonian) which claimed that Tartu university's vice-rector for development Erik Puura had forbidden publication of an article on the cooperation agreement with Huawei, on the university's website.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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