Why is my alma mater a partner to genocide?

by Matthew Marko
Dean Mary Boyce
My name is Matthew Marko, and I graduated with my PhD in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 2015, supported by the DoD SMART program.  I am writing to express my extreme disgust at Columbia’s growing and unapologetic ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while they are actively engaged in genocide and crimes against humanity.  This issue was important to me since I first enrolled at Columbia a decade ago, as my initial PhD advisor (who has moved to UCLA in 2014) was actively establishing relationships and collaborations with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) affiliated universities in mainland China (1); as well as the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, with individual researchers Guo-Qiang Patrick Lo and Dim-Lee Kwong (the supervisors of the late Shane Todd who died under disputed circumstances in Singapore in 2012) suspected of wrongdoings and suspicious ties with the CCP, PLA, and Huawei (2).  All the while my initial advisor was actively encouraging me to help him establish ties with the DoD and engage in research with dual-use military applications, and so for this reason I made the hard decision to abandon my years of research, and started an entirely new PhD under a new advisor (whom I hold in great respect) in the entirely different field of tribology, graduating in February of 2015 (3).
Some have claimed that criticism against the CCP is criticism against the Chinese people; nothing could be farther from the truth.  By far the greatest victim of the CCP’s crimes against humanity have been the ordinary Chinese people.  Under Mao Zedong (who ruled from 1949 until his death in 1976), over 70 million Chinese citizens were murdered by the CCP; exact numbers are difficult to determine due to the massive man-made famine known as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) that saw tens of millions of ordinary people forcibly starved to death.  Even after Deng Xiaoping’s reform, thousands of students were murdered in 1989 at Tiananmen Square for the crime of advocating for democratic rule, and for decades the entire country was limited to one child with hundreds of millions of mandatory (the opposite of pro-choice) abortions.
Today, General Secretary Xi Jinping, who has ruled since 2012, is ideologically-driven against any notion of democracy, separation of powers, or judicial independence (4).  Under General Secretary Xi, the CCP is building a massive Orwellian surveillance apparatus using modern technology and big data to track and study the personal habits of every citizen in mainland China (5).  Last year, the CCP decided to flagrantly and unilaterally violate their treaty obligations with the United Kingdom guaranteeing fifty years of freedom and independence for Hong Kong, when the CCP forcibly imposed their National Security Law (6, 7) that effectively ends civil liberties and free speech in the city-state.  The long history of religious persecution under the CCP has only accelerated dramatically under General Secretary Xi, with major crackdowns on Tibetan Buddhists (8, 9), Christians (8, 10), and Falun Gong (8, 11), not to mention the industrial detention of millions of Uygher’s (a Turkic Muslim minority) in hundreds of large concentration camps on a scale not seen since World War 2 in the western province of Xinjiang (8, 12, 13).  Finally, the reach of the CCP’s persecution of its citizens does not limit itself to mainland China, and the CCP aggressively monitors its citizens abroad (including their speech and their research), especially on campus via their Confucius Institutes (14 – 19).  Columbia today is the only Ivy league university to disregard this threat to its Chinese students by keeping open its Confucius Institute (17 – 19).
After I graduated, I made a point to reach out to you, Dean Boyce, with all of the details of my experience; unfortunately, the past six years I received no response and the CCP’s influence at Columbia University has only grown stronger.  In recent months, I have come to learn you are being promoted to Provost of Columbia University (20), while Shih-Fu Chang (who shared a home with my initial advisor) is promoted to your current position as Interim Dean of the engineering school (21).  This is all after years of regularly reading in the news that Columbia continues to receives significant funding from the CCP via your Confucius Institutes (19) and WuXi App-Tech (22), a partner of Huawei (23); that Columbia shuts down on-campus discussions about human rights in China (24, 25); and that you and Shih-Fu Chang happily visited Beijing to celebrate Columbia-CCP collaboration both in 2017 (26) and 2018 (27).  By far the most disturbing is the trip in 2018, where you and Shih-Fu Chang both welcomed Columbia alumni Qi Yin MS’13, the co-founder of Megvii (27), which along with Huawei is used to track and imprison the Uyghurs in their Orwellian surveillance state (28, 29), in the CCP’s on-going industrial ethnic genocide that has drawn frequent comparisons to the Nazi Holocaust (12, 13).
Since I got my degree from Columbia, I have remained a moderately active alumni, returning to campus every few months, and enjoying the many opportunities offered to Columbia graduates, including happy hours and socials, homecoming and reunion weekend, career / resume services, and various seminars and conferences.  Baring a significant change in both Columbia University’s leadership and policies towards the CCP, I do not intend to continue any further participation on campus as an alumni.  I cannot in good conscience engage with an institution that is actively celebrating those participating in these crimes against humanity.  I fully intend to bring these facts up to all other Columbia alumni (especially those who contribute financially) I know and meet, so that they are aware that to be associated with Columbia University is to be associated with the CCP, and all of the persecution and genocide that comes with it.  History may have forgiven Columbia’s President Nicholas Butler’s acceptance of members of the NSDAP (Nazi party) in the 1930s (30), as the world was ignorant of the magnitude of their crimes until the end of WW2; but given the fact that the world is aware of what the CCP is doing in real time, unless Columbia makes a real effort to sever all of these financial ties and denounce the CCP, I fully believe that this university will be harshly judged by history.
Very Respectfully,
Matthew David Marko, PhD’15
(1) “Phase-resolved observations of optical pulse propagation in chip-scale silicon nanowires.”  AIP Applied Physics Letters, 103, 021103 (2013).  https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4813140
(3) “The Tribological Effects of Lubricating Oil Containing Nanometer-Scale Diamond Particles”.  15 Feb 2015.  https://doi.org/10.7916/D8FF3R6G