According to reports, Emerson College this month launched an investigation of their campus chapter of the conservative student group, Turning Point USA, after the group created and distributed stickers with a satirical critique of the Chinese government. The stickers parodied the game Among Us with a picture of a hammer and sickle, and the phrase “China Kinda Sus”, a slang term for suspicious. In an email to the college’s international students, a spokesperson for the college said the stickers expressed “anti-China hate.” While under investigation for potentially violating the college’s Bias-Related Behavior and Invasion of Privacy policies, the student club is barred from conducting normal activities such as reserving space on campus or hosting events.

“It is a painful irony to see students censured for critiquing a repressive government that actively prohibits its own citizens from expressing such opinions,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “Even as colleges rightly prioritize addressing anti-Asian bigotry, it is a grave misstep to suggest that doing so requires chilling speech that critiques a government–perhaps the most fundamental example of protected political speech. That some students may have experienced offense, insult, or anger from the stickers is not sufficient grounds to limit or discipline the members of the student club for the free exercise of their expression. The Chinese Communist Party has engaged in its own efforts to silence criticism on U.S. campuses–such as calling for the cancellation of events with pro-Hong Kong activists, and other activities of Chinese Students and Scholars Associations. Emerson College should think twice before doing the work of the CCP for it.”