WASHINGTON – More than 100 Nobel Laureates express outrage at what they say was an attempt by the Chinese government to ‘intimidate the scientific community’ earlier this year by seeking to censor two Nobel Laureates at the Prize Summit Nobel in April organized by the US National Academies of Sciences and Nobel Foundation.
They say the Chinese embassy in Washington demanded that the summit de-invite two speakers, the Dalai Lama and Taiwanese chemist Yuan T. Lee – both Nobel laureates who have criticized Chinese policies regarding their homelands.
After rejecting the Chinese demands, the Nobel Prize winners say, a video transmission during the session was interrupted “by a suspected cyber attack”, although they are unable to attribute it to China.
“We are outraged by the Chinese government’s attempt to censor and intimidate the scientific community by trying to prevent two of our fellow laureates (or anyone) from speaking at a meeting outside of China “, said the winners in a statement. “The future of our planet will require collaboration between all nations and all scientists around the world. Many of us have valued scientific colleagues and longtime friends in China, with whom we interact productively. Unfortunately, actions such as those described above only serve to hinder such essential cooperation, and if continued, will affect our willingness to participate in events in China, especially those wholly or partially sponsored or supported by the Chinese government. “
Among the signatories was Steven Chu, a Chinese-American who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 and served as Energy Secretary from 2009 to 2013.
The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for comment, but Chinese state-owned media Global Times called the two “secessionists” and added, “US policy gravely poisons international science.”
In a statement to NBC News, the State Department condemned what it called Chinese “harassment”.
“This, unfortunately, is just another example of the PRC’s attempt to suppress free speech and intimidate people and institutions outside of China whose views and values differ from the political agenda of the Communist Party of China, ”the statement said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. .
The statement added, “We know that an official at the PRC Embassy in Washington, DC is harassing a senior National Academy of Sciences (NAS) official… We condemn this harassment and have warned the Embassy against this inappropriate behavior.
The State Department said it could not confirm any Chinese role “in the particular cyber disruption mentioned in the letter, the PRC’s use of cyber harassment and online bullying as a mechanism to expand the scope of its great firewall, especially among researchers, dissidents and academics, is well documented. Last year, for example, there were several reports of disruption at events held on Zoom to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
“We commend the Nobel Prize winners for taking a stand against the efforts of the Chinese authoritarian regime to censor and suppress freedom of expression at the 2021 Nobel Prize summit,” said Michael Orlando, acting director of the National Center Counterintelligence and Security (NCSC). summits like this are essential in upholding the values of transparency, integrity and trust in science. “
Science Magazine, which first reported on the matter, said the Nobel declaration was delayed until the National Academies of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation had a chance to investigate.
The incident came to light shortly after a divisive meeting in the northern city of Tianjin between Chinese officials and Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.