China Releases History Professor, But Travel Concerns PersistHistorians in the News
On November 15, a history professor from Hokkaido University was released in China after having been detained for over two months. The event was reported by numerous Japanese media outlets. However, the news sparked growing concerns about future exchange between Japan and China, underscoring again differing values and approaches to public order.
At issue is a statement made on the 15th by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, who asserted that on September 8, the Ministry of State Security in China had seized materials related to China’s national secrets collected by the professor at a hotel where he was staying. Under questioning, the professor apparently admitted to illegally collecting a large volume of classified information in the past as well. It has been alleged that the professor was in violation of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China and the Counter-espionage Law of the People’s Republic of China.
There are two problems with this. First, the professor was visiting China at the invitation of the Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and stayed at a hotel arranged by the Institute. When he entered the hotel room, the Ministry of State Security raided the room and seized the “evidence.” The question is, how did they know that the professor had something in his possession? The raid must have been planned following a tip-off or prior investigation. Second, does the material really violate China’s national secrets? The professor is renowned for his scholarship on the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War and for his painstaking approach to the collection of empirical historical data. He collects historical documents around the world, including Taiwan and the United States. If the Ministry of State Security judges that such historical documents fall within the category of “national secrets” and are therefore restricted, without any clear criteria, this is a major problem for researchers.
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