Call for Papers: Academic Freedom and Scholars at Risk in East Asia



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Section on East Asian Law and Society, AALS

Call for Papers: Academic Freedom and Scholars at Risk in East Asia

Section on East Asian Law and Society, AALS


Academic freedom is the bedrock for scholarly inquiry.  The idea that faculty and students can engage in intellectual debate, rigorous research, and open publication without fear of censorship, retaliation, or professional censure animates academic initiative across the world.  Yet with the rise of illiberal politicians, and the retrenchment of authoritarianism in many parts of the world, academic freedom is often sacrificed for political expediency.  Scholars, journalists, and academics have been detained, dismissed from academic posts, sued under vague theories such as picking quarrels or posting negative information, and occasionally indicted under capacious interpretations of criminal defamation.  Students, too, face suspension, arrest, or other sanctions for peaceful protests or commemorations at universities throughout the region.


The East Asian Law and Society (EALS) Section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) invites scholars to reflect on legal issues concerning academic freedom in East Asia.  According to the Academic Freedom Index, the region contains some of the freest (e.g., Taiwan, South Korea) and most restrictive (e.g., China, North Korea) academic environments in the world.  The region is also home to Hong Kong, which has witnessed among the most precipitous drops in levels of academic freedom over the past year.  Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  •       prominent dismissals (e.g. Professor Benny Tai (HKU), Professor Xu Zhangrun (Tsinghua))
  •       rejection of academics to key posts (e.g. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s rejection of prominent scientists to the Science Council of Japan)
  •       criminal sanctions of investigators into sensitive topics (e.g. China’s jailing of Zhang Zhan for reporting on Covid)
  •       self-censorship in regards to perceived or real threats from state actors 
  •       other attacks on academic freedom, freedom of speech, or freedom of information


Interested scholars, who teach at an AALS member school, are invited to submit abstracts that address any issue involving academic freedom or scholars at risk in the East Asian region.  Abstracts of between 300 and 400 words must be submitted through email, with the subject line “EALS Academic Freedom Submission: [title of paper]” to EALS Chair, Professor Timothy Webster (timothy.webster [at], by September 10, 2021.  If selected, participants must submit draft papers, of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, by December 15, 2021.  The panel will take place virtually from 4:45 PM to 6:00 PM (Eastern Daylight Time) on Sunday, January 9, 2022.