Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said the school was not aware of the alleged mistreatment a Chinese student faced for speaking out on Chinese politics until it became national news.
In November, ProPublica published an article about the aggression Kong faced after talking about the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The trouble started when he posted an open letter praising the student protestors who died in the Tiananmen Square massacre to Purdue’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association WeChat group.
“The future of democratization in China remains bleak,” Kong wrote. “We are young Chinese students who share the values of democracy and freedom, and we are fortunate to learn the message of the free world thanks to God. Thirty-one years ago, students who fell at the gun of PLA on the streets of Beijing became a topic that China could not mention. … We refuse to be silent.”
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Soon after, Kong was reportedly followed by other Chinese students around campus, called a CIA agent and threatened to be reported to the Chinese embassy. Kong said he did his best to avoid the aggressive students.
The article stated that a Chinese civilian spy agency eventually visited Kong’s parents and told them to warn him about speaking out.
“My father was urging me to stop such activities,” Kong told ProPublica, also noting that his parents were crying during the call.
Daniels sent out an email to faculty and students on Wednesday, according to the school’s student newspaper Purdue Exponent. In his email, Daniels wrote that he regrettably was not aware of Kong’s mistreatment by other Chinese students at Purdue University at the time. But the “freedom of inquiry and expression,” he continued, is central to the institution, and he condemned any students trying to limit that freedom.
“Those seeking to deny those rights to others, let alone to collude with foreign governments in repressing, will need to pursue their education elsewhere,” he wrote.
Purdue University has taught international students from Asia for over a century and had an enrollment of almost 200 Chinese international students in the last semester alone, according to the email.