Five prominent Chinese history professors have been besieged and attacked on social media after jointly publishing an article against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 26. The article survived for only an hour and a half before being deleted.

At 6 p.m. on the evening of Feb. 26, the WeChat public account “Jiangmen Zhiyan” published an article entitled “Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and Our Attitude.” The five co-signers were Sun Jiang, a professor at Nanjing University; Wang Lixin, a professor at Peking University; Xu Guoqi, a professor at Hong Kong University; Zhong Weimin, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Chen Yan, a professor at Fudan University.

They are all well-known historians. The article condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of the norms of international relations based on the UN Charter and a breach of the existing international security system. It said:
“As a country that was once ravaged by war … we sympathize with the pain of the Ukrainian people.”

“Jiangmen Straight Talk” was originally Professor Sun Jiang’s public account, but at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26, “Jiangmen Straight Talk” had cleared all articles, and Sun Jiang’s name was removed.

The five scholars expressed their strong opposition to the war waged by Russia against Ukraine and their firm support for the actions of the Ukrainian people to defend their country, as well as their strong appeal to the Russian government and President Putin to stop the war, and resolve the dispute through negotiations.

After the article was published, some netizens commented that they agreed with the anti-war. But they also ask if these professors have a similar attitude toward another five permanent powers with nuclear weapons in the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

This article was immediately surrounded and suppressed by a large number of Chinese internet trolls on Weibo and WeChat, naming the five scholars as “causing the country injustice,” “a disgrace to the education sector,” and “five rats haunting China.” Several netizens said they had reported the article to the relevant authorities.

But the article was recommended by François Godement, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He said he felt deeply for these Chinese historians.

On Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against Ukraine. The war quickly spread throughout Ukraine as Russian troops attacked the country by land, sea, and air.

After the Russian army invaded Ukraine, China supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in various ways.

Before the Russian invasion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference that the United States was the “culprit of current tensions surrounding Ukraine.”

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Hua refused to describe the Russian operation as an “invasion.” She also said she opposes any unilateral sanctions against Russia by the United States.

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