University suspends professor after foreign spy charge

The National University of Singapore or NUS has terminated the employment of Professor Huang Jing, identified on 4 August as a spy by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The university said in a statement on the same day that Huang had been suspended without pay “with immediate effect”.

The university’s announcement came after the ministry said the Chinese-born professor, who is a United States citizen and was director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, had used his senior position to “deliberately and covertly advance the agenda of a foreign country at Singapore’s expense”.

It did not name the foreign country involved.

The ministry said that Huang’s permanent residency status would be revoked and he would be banned from re-entering the country.

A university spokesperson said “in the light of MHA’s [the Ministry of Home Affairs’] findings and actions, Professor Huang Jing has been suspended without pay with immediate effect, while NUS works with MHA on this matter.

“Professor Huang’s employment at NUS is conditional on the necessary permits for working in Singapore. As these permits have been cancelled, we would not be able to continue with his employment.”

The spokesperson added: “NUS does not tolerate such acts of foreign interference, even as we continue to value and uphold the diverse and international character of our university. As this matter relates to national security, the university is unable to comment on the details of the case.”

In the wake of reports that Huang would appeal against his expulsion from Singapore, where he has his home and property, a spokesperson from NUS told University World News last Monday that the university could not comment on Huang’s status at the university in the event of an appeal.

“As of now Professor Huang is suspended without pay. Whether there is an appeal, I am not aware, but this will be a matter that is left to the authorities. And we have to see the process is followed,” she said.

Huang told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper: “It’s nonsense to identify me as ‘an agent of influence’ for a foreign country.”

He said further: “And why didn’t they identify which foreign country they’re referring to? Is it the United States or China?”

Still in Singapore, he has said he will seek help from his lawyer and the US embassy there.

“My family and my home are all here. I have property in Singapore, too. How can they treat me like this? If they have evidence, they should take me to court,” he said, adding that he had not been given a deadline to leave.

‘Foreign country’s agenda’

According to a description on the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy or LKYSPP website, Huang is an expert on Chinese elite politics, China’s development strategy, foreign policy and military, and US-China relations.

Many academics said Huang held pro-Chinese government views.

According to the Home Affairs Ministry statement: "Huang used his senior position in the LKYSPP to deliberately and covertly advance the agenda of a foreign country at Singapore's expense. He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents.”

“This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics. Huang's continued presence in Singapore, and that of his wife, are therefore undesirable."

Huang had engaged prominent and influential Singaporeans, providing them with what he claimed was "privileged information" about the foreign country to influence opinions in favour of that country, the ministry said.

It added that he had recruited others to aid his operations and gave supposedly ‘privileged information’ to a senior member of the Lee Kuan Yew School, so it could be passed on to the Singapore government.

"The information was duly conveyed by that senior member of the LKYSPP to very senior public officials who were in a position to direct Singapore's foreign policy," it said. "The clear intention was to use the information to cause the Singapore government to change its foreign policy."

However, the government declined to act on the information, it added.

Huang’s background

Huang received his bachelor and masters degrees from Chinese universities – respectively, Sichuan University where he read English, and Fudan University where he read history. He moved on to obtain a doctorate in political science from Harvard University in the US. 

Before joining LKYSPP, Huang was a senior fellow of the John L Thornton China Center at America’s Brookings Institution from 2004 to 2008, and a Shorenstein fellow at Stanford University from 2002 to 2003. He was director of the Asian Studies programme and associate professor of political science at Utah State University from 1994 to 2004. Huang also lectured at Harvard University between 2013 and 2014.