Scholars say China denies them visas after publishing book





For a while, Calla Wiemer said, she held it close.

“We all hoped that the problem would be resolved quickly,” said Wiemer, who counts four visa denials stamped into her passport. On a couple of other occasions, her application was declined before it even got to a stamp-wielding bureaucrat. In one more case, the U.S. Embassy intervened to ask the Chinese Foreign Ministry if Wiemer would be approved if she applied. The answer was no.

“Now that it’s gone on for all these years, I can’t keep it a secret anymore,” said Wiemer, who just returned to Los Angeles with plans to write a macroeconomics textbook following a series of consecutive one-year contract positions at the National University of Singapore (her contract was not renewed). Wiemer resigned from a tenured associate professor position at the University of Hawaii in 1997, becoming “uprooted academically” she said, and then “the problem with my visa has made it very difficult to land again. Because I’m a career Sinologist and I haven’t been able to get into China for five years now.”

Wiemer is one of a small number of U.S. scholars seemingly “blacklisted” from China for her scholarly output – and, specifically, her contribution to a 2004 book on Xinjiang, China’s northwestern, largely Muslim region and a seat of some separatist sentiment. She said a Chinese translation of Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland (M.E. Sharp) was already circulating, prepublication, at the time of her first visa denial in October 2003.

According to the accounts of several scholars involved, the 16 collaborators on the Xinjiang book have largely been blocked from entering China. (Though the book’s editor, S. Frederick Starr, of Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS, maintains he’s not “convinced or unconvinced” that there’s a link between the book and visa difficulties. Other collaborators said the connection was crystal clear, and two, on the record, said that Starr was “in denial.”)

“I have been denied a visa to China since 2005, following the publication of the book on Xinjiang. I have applied each year and been turned down. The Chinese government has not given a specific reason: It said only, ‘You are not welcome in China. You should know why,’” said Peter C. Perdue, a professor of history at Yale University who co-authored a chapter on Xinjiang’s political and cultural history. He added, however, that a systematic pattern of visa denials affecting the book’s contributors “makes [the reason] pretty clear. We know that the Communist Party had this volume translated, labeled internal circulation, and discussed it.”...


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