December 17, 2021
"We need a hell of a lot more truth-telling like this in American life."
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor in praise of Purdue University and its president Mitch Daniels for taking a stand against Chinese Communist Party censorship and intimidation.
"Mr. President, Chairman Xi is a coward, and he sends his goons to intimidate people for telling the truth. That is who Chairman Xi is. He doesn't believe in the dignity of people. He doesn't believe that they're image-bearers of God. He doesn't believe they have the rights of free speech, religion, press, assembly, and protest. He believes that you must intimidate college students for telling the truth. If they're saying something to a small group of people 6,000 miles away, Chairman Xi is intimidated and he is scared. That student told the truth. We should celebrate that student. Mitch Daniels and Purdue University stood up to that kind of intimidation, we should celebrate that."
On December 15, President Mitch Daniels sent a letter to the Purdue community condemning the harassment and censorship campaign the Chinese secret police waged against a Purdue graduate student for speaking out.
CCP agents intimidated the student’s family and suspended his WeChat account. Then, other Chinese students at Purdue began harassing the student himself and threatened to report him to the Chinese embassy for dissenting from CCP lies about history.
Full transcript is available below.
According to ProPublica Reporting, a Purdue student from China, Zhihao Kong, who goes by the nickname Moody, wrote an open letter condemning the Chinese Communist Party for killing dissidents in Tiananmen Square in 1989. We all know the famous image of the man who stood courageously not in front of one tank, most of the images that ran in US newspapers were of one guy in front of a tank, and if you just look at that image you can assume that the tank commander is some nut job, who decided he was going to torment this kid, but if you actually look at the image as you can through US photo archives, and you pan back out, that first tank is one tank in a long, long, long line of tanks, coming, that this man stands courageously in front of. It’s not one tank commander that this guy stands in front of in Tiananmen Square, it is an autocratic government that’s scared to death of the courage of free people. And that man stood courageously as the Chinese Communist Party was murdering students in Tiananmen Square.
The Purdue graduate student Moody, decided to write an open letter about that, reminding students in America and around the world of what happened in Tiananmen Square. Well guess what happened next. After Moody published that letter, the Chinese secret police decided to go visit his family and intimidate them, so that they might put pressure on him, asking him, commanding him, coercing him, twisting the arms of his parents and loved ones, to stop talking about the truth about what happened in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989. Well Mr. Kong refused to back down, other Chinese students at Purdue, not Chinese students in Beijing, Chinese students in Purdue, decided that it was their obligation to harass Mr. Kong. They pursued him around campus, and they threatened to report him to the Chinese Embassy.
Think about that for a second, what do we think about embassies as for, 200 countries around the face of the earth and when you’re traveling and you have a lost passport, or you suffer some petty crime, or you have a family member who has a medical emergency back home, you call up your embassy for help, because you think that these are people who love you, you’re in a foreign place and you maybe don’t speak the language, and then embassy is there to help you navigate a world where you might not know the language, the laws, or the customs.
Well, what happened in the United States, a freedom loving place, is that these Chinese students, Chinese nationals here in school at Purdue, thought that it might be their job to contact the Chinese embassy, to tattle on Mr. Kong, because the man had the courage to tell the truth. He had spoken online, he’d written online, he’d been involved in dissident events. So what happened then, besides his parents being harassed by the Chinese secret police, and besides graduate students following him around to intimidate him and threaten to report him to the embassy, WeChat decided that they need to block and suspend his account to cut off his communications with the outside world. A few days before he was scheduled to speak at a Zoom commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the secret police went to visit his parents again, reminding them that they needed to make sure he put an end to his activism, re truth-telling.
It’s convenient for Americans to look the other way and stay silent in the face of this. We’ve seen many American professional sports leagues, we’ve seen Hollywood companies lusting after Chinese middle class markets, we’ve seen the Marriott hotel chain agreeing to intimidate their employees, so that their employees didn’t acknowledge what’s happened in Hong Kong and the threats currently against Taiwan, we’ve seen this censorship using economic statecraft from Beijing to intimidate Americans, and American companies, and American institutions to do their bidding to suppress people who might tell the truth.
It's convenient to stay silent. And many of our institutions have pathetically agreed with Beijing that they would self-censor at Beijing and Chairman Xi's bidding. Well, guess who didn't do that. Purdue University decided they were not going to do that. So, there's a lot of bad stuff happening in the world because of the expansionistic desires of the CCP, and we have a lot of Americans and American institutions who are willing to be complicit in the CCP's desired expansionism. But Purdue didn't, and we should pause today just for a minute and celebrate that good news. We should celebrate that courage. Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana, current president of Purdue, decided that this was not okay, and it was important to tell the truth about this fact, what had happened, and that this wasn't okay.
I'd like to read into the Congressional Record today President Daniel's letter to the Purdue campus 36 hours ago, because we need a hell of a lot more truth-telling like this in American life. Here's Mitch Daniels and the Purdue leadership on behalf of not just Purdue, but American values.
"Dear Purdue students, staff and faculty,
Purdue learned from a national news account last week that one of our students, after speaking out on behalf of freedom and others martyred for advocating it, was harassed and threatened by other students from his own home country. Worse still, his family back home, in this case China, was visited and threatened by agents of that nation’s secret police.
We regret that we were unaware at the time of these events and had to learn of them from national sources. That reflects the atmosphere of intimidation that we have discovered surrounds this specific sort of speech.
Any such intimidation is unacceptable and unwelcome on our campus. Purdue has punished less personal, direct and threatening conduct. Anyone taking exception to the speech in question had their own right to express their disagreement, but not to engage in the actions of harassment which occurred here. If those students who issued the threats can be identified, they will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Likewise, any student found to have reported another student to any foreign entity for exercising their freedom of speech or belief will be subject to significant sanction.
International students are nothing new at Purdue University, which welcomed its first Asian admittees well over a century ago. We are proud that several hundred international students, nearly 200 of them Chinese, enrolled again this fall.
But joining the Purdue community requires acceptance of its rules and values, and no value is more central to our institution or to higher education generally than the freedom of inquiry and expression. Those seeking to deny those rights to others, let alone to collude with foreign governments in repressing them, will need to pursue their education elsewhere.
Mr. President, Chairman Xi is a coward, and he sends his goons to intimidate people for telling the truth. That is who Chairman Xi is. He doesn't believe in the dignity of people. He doesn't believe that they're image-bearers of God. He doesn't believe they have the rights of free speech, religion, press, assembly, and protest. He believes that you must intimidate college students for telling the truth. If they're saying something to a small group of people 6,000 miles away, Chairman Xi is intimidated and he is scared. That student told the truth. We should celebrate that student. Mitch Daniels and Purdue University stood up to that kind of intimidation, we should celebrate that. Because that's what American courage looks like, and we need a whole Hell of a lot more of it. We need a lot more people to look like the Women's Tennis Association, not to look like the NBA. Thank you, Mr. President.