China’s prestigious Peking University has defended its controversial sacking of an outspoken pro-democracy professor by saying Xia Yeliang (夏業良) had earned poor marks for teaching.
The dismissal of Xia on Friday generated international attention and criticism in domestic social media and came as China’s new leadership has taken measures to silence high-profile critics.
Xia, an economist, said he believed he was dismissed for his political views. He support for Charter 08, a document signed by hundreds of intellectuals, dissidents and others urging pluralist democracy in China.
However, Peking University said in a statement on its microblog account on Saturday that Xia was the school’s worst-ranked teacher and the source of 340 student complaints since 2006.
“Xia Yeliang’s teaching evaluation scores were for many years in a row the lowest of the entire university,” the statement said.
It added that a university committee had voted in October last year to let him go, but gave him one year to improve.
In the follow-up meeting this month it said 30 people voted to end Xia’s contract, three people opposed, one abstained and three people did not attend.
Users of China’s popular microblogging service Sina Weibo expressed doubt about the motives for sacking Xia.
One commentator using the name Leidaju claimed to have taken a course with Xia and said: “Although he sometimes held strong views, in general he was a good teacher.”
Another user with the name Lengyu1918 said: “Only Professor Xia Yeliang is brave enough to be a backbone for the Chinese people, whereas a lot of other people are just protecting themselves.”
Xia’s Charter 08 coauthor and 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) is serving an 11-year jail term.
Since new leaders under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office earlier this year, authorities have tightened control over public discourse on social media.