A Chinese professor adopted as the intellectual poster boy of the Chinese Communist Party has come under fire for plagiarizing the work of a dissident jailed by the government in the early 1990s.
Zhou Yezhong (周葉中), a professor at Wuhan University, is credited with much of the inspiration behind the current leadership's new ideological approach, with its emphasis on the "harmonious society."
Zhou has lectured the Politburo and Communist party chief Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and has been at the center of the party's efforts to square its ideology with formerly taboo topics such as human rights, the rule of law and constitutional government.
But his position as Beijing's golden boy has started to tarnish after he was accused of plagiarism by Wang Tiancheng (王天成), a former Beijing University professor who was jailed for five years in 1992 for attempting to form a rival political party.
Wang used an Internet discussion board to denounce Zhou's work. He has threatened to take legal action against the Wuhan University professor if an explanation is not forthcoming.
He told reporters that his book, The Constitutional Interpretation of Republicanism, was quoted "word for word" in Zhou's recently published works.
"He's risen to the top by repackaging fashionable terms -- human rights, democracy, rule of law -- for the party's ends," Wang said.
"But he reflects the emptiness of the party's ideology. They've got nothing and so he needs to raid the opposition camp for any new ideas," Wang said.
The Youth Daily, a newspaper given leeway to report stories suppressed by the rest of China's tightly controlled media, further publicized Wang's claim of plagiarism.
But that debate has now been muted following an order from propaganda officials to end further discussion of the matter in the domestic media.
Zhou has made little attempt to defend himself.
However, in an interview with a Youth Daily journalist in November he hinted that because of Wang's history of dissent it was not politically sound for the publishing house to leave his name in the accreditation notes.
The propaganda department last week ordered Youth Daily to suppress a dissection of Zhou's book by a liberal law professor, He Weifang (
However, discussions of the case have continued to spread on China's Internet.
He said Zhou took dozens of sections from Wang and other liberal academics without attribution.
"[Wang] strains very hard to make liberal political thought consistent with the official line, and that doesn't fit," He told reporters.
Discussions of ideology are a crucial aspect of intellectual life in Beijing's political circles, and each new leader is expected to promote his own philosophy.
Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) put his mark on the introduction of Western-style market reforms by declaring that "to get rich is glorious," while the concept of creating a "harmonious society" has been the catchphrase of the new leadership under Hu.