Human rights in China

China expels German journalism student who wrote about rights lawyers

Immigration authorities told David Missal, 24, his student visa had been cancelled and gave him a week to leave the country

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 4:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 4:56pm

A German man has learned the hard way that practising journalism in China, even for a class project, could lead to serious trouble.

David Missal, 24, was pursuing a master’s degree in journalism and communication at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He landed in Düsseldorf on Sunday after Chinese immigration authorities told him his student visa had been cancelled and he had a week to leave the country.

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Missal said he thought that was because he reported on the plight of jailed human rights lawyers in a journalism class. Missal said a Tsinghua representative this year warned him twice against pursuing the politically sensitive subject, but he went ahead anyway because he wanted to “get to learn Chinese society and politics”.

“In a way, the last two months I did get to learn more Chinese society and politics,” Missal said, referring to his own case.

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Since July 9, 2015 China has questioned, detained and in some cases formally arrested about 300 people as part of its biggest crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Several received lengthy sentences for subversion of state power while a few still await sentencing.

The action against Missal underscores China’s extreme sensitivity to foreign attention to the crackdown, word of which has rarely appeared in China’s entirely state controlled media and on the heavily policed Chinese internet.

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Missal said his work was never published beyond his personal blog and YouTube, which he thought was seen by fewer than 100 people.

Tsinghua’s propaganda office said it could not immediately comment and had to look into the case.