Review clears New Zealand scholar over China criticism

Anne-Marie Brady complied with policies and legislation, says Canterbury, but statement calls for ‘clarity’ amendments

December 11, 2020
The University of Canterbury
Source: canterbury.ac.nz

The University of Canterbury has concluded that Chinese politics scholar Anne-Marie Brady, plus her two co-authors, had “met the responsibilities” of the New Zealand institution’s policies and the country’s Education Act.

Professor Brady had been under investigation since August for a report called Holding a Pen in One Hand, Gripping a Gun in the Other: China’s exploitation of civilian channels for military purposes in New Zealand. She claimed that she had been gagged from speaking, an accusation that the university denied. Hundreds of global scholars had rallied behind her in petitions saying that the university’s actions violated academic freedom.

In its 11 December statement, Canterbury noted that Professor Brady’s work, which investigated alleged links between New Zealand universities and the Chinese military, “was based on a lengthy period of research and cites extensively from other sources”.

However, it also “recommended that some phrases could be amended to provide clarity”. The reason for the request was that her paper was originally intended as a submission to parliament and “succinct”.

Professor Brady tweeted for the first time since August, saying: “I’m back. I cleared my name.” She thanked “academic peers at UC and around the world” and members of parliament who offered support.

She issued a statement saying “neither I nor my lawyers could see anything to justify the complaints or their gagging order to me on this important topic affecting the integrity of our universities and their relationship with China”.

“We must know how it came to be that academic research can be attacked with disciplinary powers, instead of the normal transparent publication of competing views and claims,” she said.

Canterbury launched the review after receiving four complaints about Professor Brady’s work.

These came from both individual academics and two institutions, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland, whose grievance was specifically about a portrayal of Wei Gao, an engineering professor.

Auckland responded in a statement that while it upheld the principles of academic freedom, it also felt the Canterbury review did not cover its “specific complaint about inaccuracies and misleading information in the Brady publication. We stand by our original complaint.” It called on Professor Brady to amend her work “to reflect the correct academic record of Professor Gao”.

Professor Brady responded in her statement that “staff and students at the complaining institutions, Victoria and Auckland universities, have as much at stake as me in knowing that their vice-chancellors will also stand up for academic freedom”.

“They asked UC to suppress my academic freedom against a parliamentary submission. My submission contributed to better legislation updating the regulation of strategic goods,” she said.

Canterbury said in a statement that it supports “the freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas, and to state controversial or unpopular opinions”.

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com

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