China Shares Only Parts of Harvard President's Talk

March 25, 2019

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow (right) gave a talk at Peking University last week. China watchers and human rights activists praised the talk for a number of reasons. He praised the May Fourth Movement (of 1919) for the role played by students in demanding freedom and the "pursuit of truth." He did so at a time when China's leaders -- while embracing ties to Harvard and other universities in the West -- have been critical of student movements that are independent of the government. Bacow also closed his speech with quotes from a poem by the late Abdurehim Ötkür. Bacow identified him as "one of China’s great modern poets." Ötkür was part of China's Uighur people, a group whose identity China has questioned.

When Peking University shared news of the talk on its social media sites, and when People's Daily covered the speech, no mention was made of either the May Fourth movement or of Ötkür. And some of those who praised Bacow for his talk took to social media to note those omissions in coverage. Harvard declined to comment.

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