Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, strongly criticized Cornell University for failing to protect a Uyghur woman, who was protesting the treatment of her people by the Chinese government, against mockery from a group of Chinese students.
Cornell student and Fulbright scholar, Rizwangul NurMuhammad, spoke up during a guest lecture last week. She questioned Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) about China’s genocide against the Uyghur people only to hear jeers from Chinese international students who were also in attendance.
About 40 of the students walked out after she spoke.
Slotkin explained to the audience that Americans do not know as much about Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang as they do Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
Haley, who is known for her anti-Trump stances after leaving the administration, said the Ivy League school “should be ashamed” of not protecting a woman speaking out about “Communist China’s genocide against the Uyghur people.” NurMuhammad’s brother, Mewlan, has been detained by Chinese authorities since 2017, and she has not been able to speak to him since.
The Cornell student said she felt “intimidated and humiliated” by her Chinese classmates, who reportedly were booing and laughing as they exited the lecture. They were also some of the nearly 90 signatures added to a letter sent to the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs decrying the “extremely hostile” environment that preceded their walkout.
Questioning an authoritarian and genocidal regime in an American university is apparently a hostile act in 2022. The supposed victims wrote that they were “crucified in a courtroom for crimes” they were not guilty of.
Matt Hall, the school’s Public Affairs Director, sent an email following the incident to the Cornell faculty saying abuses of the Uyghur people are “valuable points of discussion.” However, he followed that by stating that the Chinese students actions were “legitimate” ways to dissent and must be respected.
A follow-up email from Hall and the School of Public Policy’s Colleen Barry was similarly weak and noncommittal. The second communication noted “divisive discourse” following the incident at the lecture and spurred “serious conversation” about how to address the genocide and human rights violations perpetuated against the Uyghur people.
So far so good, but the administration did not stop there. Instead, the same note warned about the conversation becoming a “derogatory anti-Asian expression.” Using that logic, opposition to Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine could be dismissed as derogatory anti-Russian sentiment.
Both the Trump and Biden administrations have decried the Chinese holding as many as 1 million Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group from the western provice of Xinjiang.
Other U.S. leaders should join Haley in denouncing attempts to silence the voices of those oppressed by Chinese genocide.