Officials at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln believe a professor who had been leading students on a study abroad trip has been detained by Chinese authorities for undisclosed reasons, based on reports from the professor’s family.
Weixing Li, an assistant professor of practice management at the university’s College of Business Administration, has offered the monthlong study abroad program since 2008, and he had not experienced any problems with the Chinese government until now, said David Wilson, senior international officer at the university. Li’s family notified the university on Friday that Li had called his sister in China to tell her he had been detained. Neither the family nor the university has been able to ascertain when he was detained or his whereabouts, and his family indicated they believe he is still in custody.
“There’s a good deal we don’t know -- when, why or where he was detained, for example,” Wilson said. Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on Li’s detention.
Wilson said Li is not an American citizen, which makes obtaining information about his situation difficult. “We’ve been working with the American Embassy (in Beijing), but there’s very little they can do because this faculty member is a Chinese national.”
According to a brochure, the study abroad program occurred from May 5 to June 1. Out of the 18 total participants, 11 decided to stay in China after the program ended to participate in internships or other activities. Wilson said Li was detained after the program ended, so Li was no longer accompanying the students. The university notified the students who remained in China about Li’s detention, and about half of them decided to come home early, Wilson said.
“We have no reason to believe that our students are not safe, or that this detention is in any way connected with them, but we felt that it was important to share that news with them so that they could talk it over with their families and make decisions,” he said, adding that the news had not yet been shared with the rest of the university community. Wilson said he contacted some other institutions to ask if they have had faculty members detained abroad, and no one he contacted has had experience with this scenario.