The 2nd Suspension

The 2nd Suspension

One day after leaving France, the student’s parents are threatened in a park in Beijing by four young men, who tell them that all of their family will be killed if the student does not stop investigating the INSEAD-HOUYI partnership. The student informs Dean Prof. Urs Peyer and asks that INSEAD® take action by asking HOUYI to calm down. The only response he receives is an official letter telling him that he is suspended indefinitely until an investigation into his conduct is concluded.

Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]

The student’s parents are threatened in Beijing

On July 11th, one day after driving back from France to Germany, the student received a terrifying phone call from his parents informing him that that afternoon they had been threatened by four young men in a park in Beijing. One of the four young men threatened to kill all his family members if he continued investigating the strategic partnership between INSEAD® and “Beijing Post EMBA Alumni Association” (i.e. HOUYI). The student’s parents swiftly left Beijing and his wife and children left Germany. The student informed Dean Prof. Urs Peyer of all this and asked him to tell INSEAD’s Chinese partner to calm down. 

The only response that the student received was the below letter dated July 19th from Dean Prof. Urs Peyer extending his suspension pending the outcome of an “in-depth review”. The letter invites him to present his side of the case in a conference call in September, with a suggested date of 12 September. This two-month delay between the letter’s date and the conference call precluded the possibility of the student’s completing the last module of his degree within INSEAD® in time to graduate with his class. It was clearly also an attempt to prevent the student from communicating with faculty members and his peers and sharing with them his side of the story.

The student’s classmates are informed of the additional suspension time

On July 22nd, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent an email to XXEMBA 2020 students. The below email was forwarded to the student by his classmate.

Topic: Update on {NAME OF THE STUDENT} status

“Dear XXEMBA20,

I would like to update you on the situation with {NAME OF THE STUDENT} who had sent this threatening email at the start of the Electives.

After the initial suspension, INSEAD® and {NAME OF THE PARTNER UNIVERSITY} have exchanged, heard from various stakeholders, and have decided to extend the suspension as we assessed this email as well as other communications and interactions to violate our code of conduct. This additional suspension time will allow us to review the situation further.

As part of this review, we have offered again to meet with {NAME OF THE STUDENT} in the next months.

Please be assured that his suspension is unrelated to his investigation into the HOUYI Institute – we are open to feedback – this is about the form in which this and other exchanges happened, in violation of the code of conduct as well as our INSEAD® values.

Our aim is to follow a fair process, protect all our stakeholders, and uphold our values. We will keep you informed of the eventual outcome of the process.

I wish everyone a nice summer and appreciate that you have engaged in a superb way with the courses, fellow participants, and faculty.

Good luck also on your thesis projects!

Best wishes,


Despite the assurances made by Dean Prof. Urs Peyer in an email sent on 22nd July to all XXEMBA 2020 students that the student’s suspension had nothing to do with his investigation into the INSEAD-HOUYI partnership, the suspension letter states: “This interim measure is justified by the nature of your behaviour and communication towards INSEAD® members and affiliates.” The only INSEAD® affiliate the student had ever had anything to do with was HOUYI. (see Appendix 15: Second Suspension Letter – July 19th 2019)

The student’s response to the second suspension

On July 23rd, the student responded to the suspension letter dated July 19th with an email to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer expressing his incredulity over the claim that his suspension was unrelated to the HOUYI investigation. The student insisted that INSEAD® first address the unresolved issues he had raised regarding the safety of his family and how his information had been leaked to HOUYI. He could not believe that the criminal activity of INSEAD’s affiliate was being completely overlooked by INSEAD® while a single email was being used to justify his expulsion from the degree programme. The student made it clear to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer that he did not consider any sanction imposed by him or Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov to be fair when the serious concerns he had raised were not being addressed.

Notwithstanding that his university and private email accounts had been blocked, the student-maintained contact with several of his peers and a couple of faculty members during his suspension. He was informed by one of his classmates that, in response to queries from XXEMBA students about the HOUYI partnership, a conference call between Dean Prof. Urs Peyer and Xiaowei in France with XXEMBA students in Singapore was held. The professors offered the rather implausible explanation that Beijing University’s accusation of trademark infringement against “Beijing Post EMBA association” was motivated by seeing that organisation as a competitive threat.

Prof. Xiaowei later called the student via WeChat to inform him that INSEAD’s legal department had sent an email to all faculty forbidding them from contacting the student. In the same call, she asked for evidence of HOUYI’s threat against his parents.

Questions & Answers

Why did you decline to have a conference call with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer? 

In this matter, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer was the judge, jury and the executioner. I knew that the outcome of the review was already decided and that nothing I would say would make any difference anyway. The offer to have a class representative attend was meaningless. What I needed was legal representation. I was dissatisfied with the failure to offer me an option to talk to them before September, thus ensuring that I had no possibility whatsoever of attending the last module with INSEAD®. Therefore, I declined the invitation already on July 23rd to present my case in a conference call. Knowing that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer was not capable of impartiality, I said that I would only speak with the chairman of INSEAD’s board.

Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]