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Malicious Denunciations Stifle Academic Freedom in China, Analysts Say Voice of America

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WASHINGTON – In recent years, an increasing number of university professors in China have been fired, fired, and even arrested and sentenced to prison terms after being handed over to authorities by classroom informants for inappropriate speech.

Analysts say the worrying trend of what they call “malicious reporting” at Chinese universities is growing. They say the practice not only further limits the space for free thought and expression in Chinese universities, but also jeopardizes the quality of academic research and discussion.

Earlier this month, renowned Chinese historian and Cold War expert Shen Zhihua delivered a live speech at an academic seminar on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, but an hour after the start of the conference, the flow was suddenly interrupted. It is still unclear what Shen may have said that was offensive and the host of the seminar, Beijing Capitol Normal University, has yet to put the video online.

In a statement, the university blamed malicious information from students or individuals who denounce teachers when they make statements or share views perceived to challenge official accounts of the Communist Party or its leader. , Xi Jinping.

The university called the complaint a blatant violation of academic discussion and free speech. He also noted that the lecture was the seventh in a “Four Stories” series at the College of History of Normal University in the capital. The university said that far from being a subversive speech, the speech was an attempt by the school to put into practice the spirit of President Xi Jinping’s speech on the study of the “four stories”.

The “four stories” refer to the history of the party, the history of the People’s Republic of China, the history of reform and opening up, and the history of the development of socialism.

Asked by VOA about the incident, Shen just laughed and said he didn’t pay much attention to online reviews.

“Chinese internet users will blame you when they hear something they are not happy with,” he said.

This photo taken on June 26, 2019 shows an adult student taking notes about Xi Jinping being taught in a class at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee for foreign journalists in Beijing.

Violate the constitution

Professor Yang Shaozheng, who was fired after being spied on and after his students denounced him for comments criticizing the CCP in 2018, told VOA that the party deprives people of their freedom of speech even though it is guaranteed in the country’s constitution.

“On the surface, it’s these malicious reporters who are annoying and disgusting, but if they didn’t have the environment they couldn’t get away with it even if they wanted to make a malicious report,” he said. he declares.

He also said the wider political environment in the country did little to discourage the exposure of false accusations.

Malicious reports are now widespread, mainly because they (the authorities) do not respect the laws that protect freedom of expression in our country, so that the constitutional right of university professors and citizens to freedom of speech ‘expression is violated,’ he said.

Students attend a class on the first day of the new semester in Wuhan, central Hubei Province, China on September 1, 2020.

Student informants

You Shengdong, another victim of the practice, says the reason malicious denunciations are so prevalent is that many universities in China are deploying student informants as watchdogs against their teachers to suppress dissent and turn universities into strongholds of party in a throwback to the Mao Zedong era. He told VOA that everyone is feeling the danger and the cooling effect in Chinese universities.

Many universities have openly recruited informants to supervise teachers. These monitors are required to point out teachers who spread superstitions, Western values, and critiques of party principles, and to ensure that things that belong to the “Seven Things Not to Talk About” proposed by Xi Jinping in 2013 is not mentioned in classrooms, including universal values ​​and historical mistakes made by the Chinese Communist Party.

In addition to making Xi Jinping Thought a compulsory course at universities, a requirement that started at 37 higher education institutions this fall, schools have openly hired informants in recent years.

In its regulations for student informers, the Xiantao Vocational College of Hubei Province clearly states that student informers should report teachers who engage in behavior that endangers national interests. The school said teachers should also be reported if their speech or behavior contradicts Party policies or violates holiday discipline.

“In recent years, the political and academic climate of Chinese universities has deteriorated,” he said. Because of the cameras in the classrooms as well as the informants, I was reported along with other teachers. This situation is getting worse. If teachers cannot teach and research freely in their own fields, how can we educate students? “

New cultural revolution

You say the result is the promotion of ideological brainwashing.

“If there is no free speech in a country, especially in a university, how can the truth be spread? How to impart knowledge? How to teach students?” He said. Any country if it is a society for the people then there should be many voices, not one voice. “

And in a paranoid atmosphere where many focus on what cannot be discussed, Yang said the climate can often elevate common academic discussions to a political level.

“In academic discussions, no academic idea should be elevated higher than it is, at the political level. This is what a normal academic environment needs,” he said. , is that people don’t care about logic or facts. They always talk about it. political stuff and doctrines. “

He said this kind of far-left thinking reminds him of the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, a period that cost Chinese society dearly. During the chaotic cultural revolution, millions of people died, intellectuals were targeted, and schools and higher education institutions were closed. Yang said it appears the authorities have learned nothing from the past.

Teachers punished for “ inappropriate speech ”

Deng Xiangchao, former vice-dean of the School of Art at Shandong University of Architecture, was ordered to retire in January 2017 for reposting articles criticizing Mao Zedong.

Shi Jiepeng, a former associate professor at Peking University, was dismissed from his post in July 2017 after being accused of “disseminating false statements on the Internet” and “crossing ideological red lines”.

So song, associate professor at Chongqing Normal University, was fired from the school and detained by police in September 2017 for investigating Chinese land reforms, the anti-Japanese war, the Wenchuan earthquake, and for having spoke in class about the crackdown on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

Xu Chuanqing, an associate professor at Peking University of Architecture, was reported in September 2017 for allegedly criticizing students for not taking the classes seriously and saying that Japanese students work hard and that Japan will become a superior nation. He received administrative sanctions in 2018.

Zhai juhong, associate professor at Hubei Zhongnan University of Economics, Political Science and Law, was accused of criticizing Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendments and the Chinese People’s Congress system in a political class, and was expelled from the party, sanctioned and removed from office in May 2018.

Wang Gang |, an associate professor at the Faculty of Clinical Medicine at Hebei University of Engineering, was fired in July 2018 after setting up a WeChat group for Chinese people who seek to talk about rights that are being violated and claim that China does not would not embark on the path of democracy constitutionalism in a series of articles.

Cheng Ran, A professor at Xiangtan University, was demoted in March 2019 after being accused of making a series of statements in class “with a large number of fake images and foreign media reports” and “denigrating the image party and state leaders.

Tang yun, an associate professor at Chongqing Normal University, was disqualified and demoted in March 2019 after being denounced by students for making statements damaging the country’s reputation.

Xu Zhangrun, professor at Tsinghua University Law School, was suspended in March 2019 for criticizing Xi Jinping for amending the constitution and calling for rehabilitating the June 4 movement. Xu was then fired and arrested for prostitution.

Lu Jia, an associate professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Marxism, was accused by students of being “anti-party and anti-constitution” in April 2019 and is under investigation.

Zi Su, a former Yunnan Provincial Party school teacher who advocated for the Chinese Communist Party’s practice of intra-party democracy and called for Xi’s resignation, was arrested in April 2017 on charges of incitement to subversion of state power and sentenced to four years in prison April 2019.

Huang Qi, a retired professor at Guizhou Minzu University, was administratively detained for 15 days on September 24, 2019 for commenting on Twitter and WeChat about the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill and of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square.

Liu yufu, a teacher at the Law School of Chengdu Technologys University, was administratively punished in October 2019 for comments he made in class and online several years ago.

Cao Jisheng, a lecturer at the School of Marxism at Shanxi University of Finance and Economics, was administratively sanctioned by the police and marked by the school in late October 2019 for making “inappropriate remarks” in a group WeChat.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

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