Email to Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor of Northampton University

on learning that Minister Counsellor Zhou Xiaoming will be visiting the University next week


Dear Mr. Petford,

As a mature student at the University, I was extremely surprised and disappointed to learn, from the newspaper rather than from the University itself, of the visit this coming Thursday of Minister Counsellor Zhou Xiaoming from the Chinese Embassy.

As you are undoubtedly aware, Mr. Xiaoming represents a Government whose record on human rights has been consistently condemned by other Governments and independent bodies around the world. In Tibet, which China has occupied illegitimately for several  decades, religious freedoms are severely restricted, the native language is being erased and as fundamental a freedom (from a fortunate Western perspective) as flying the Tibetan national flag will result in your arrest. (Mr. Xiaoming's Embassy even had the temerity to complain to the Borough Council because the Mayor was present at a ceremony in which the Tibetan flag was raised in Northampton.)

Hundreds of thousands have been beaten, imprisoned, tortured, maimed and killed by the occupying Chinese army during the long years of the Tibetan struggle for independence. Since 2009 alone, approximately 26 monks, nuns and lay people have been driven to self-immolate by the desperateness of the situation there. Most call for the liberation of their country and the return of their spiritual leader, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, while their bodies burn.

These are not wild exaggerations or the product of my fanciful imagination, but solid, provable facts. In the light of the above, and the campaigns around the world to end the Tibetan genocide by boycotting Chinese goods and services, I believe the University should not make its facilities available to representatives of the Chinese Government, either by direct invitation or indirectly, by hosting conferences or seminars to which these representatives are invited.

I know that the University is a business, but business has a duty to be moral as well as profitable, especially when a large area of its focus is the education of the next generation of adults; surely it would be better not to send them the message, however unintentionally, that genocide is less important than money. Or if more visits like Mr. Xiaoming's are to be arranged (I appreciate it is probably too late to withdraw his invitation now), perhaps you should consider dropping the "Empire and After" module from the BA English degree. I take that module - it is mandatory, actually - and we are told in it, consistently, and rightly of course, that invasion and colonisation of other countries by military force, followed by the subjection of the native population, is a crime against humanity which all civilised people should condemn.

I found it a rather bitter irony to come home yesterday, after my Empire and After lecture, to find that the University is playing host to a representative of the largest and most brutal colonial oppressor on Earth.


Bruce Hodder
BA English, Second Year.