A Chinese university has fired a professor for failing to admit wrongdoing in posting an article criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the professor said yesterday, underscoring questions about academic freedoms for foreign colleges setting up shop in China.
Many liberals had hoped that the new government under Xi, who became president in March, would be more tolerant of calls for political reform.
However, the dismissal of law professor Zhang Xuezhong (張雪忠) on Monday by the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai appeared to be fresh evidence the Chinese Communist Party is hardening its stance toward dissent.
The dismissal follows the firing of liberal Peking University economist Xia Yeliang (夏業良) in October for blog posts calling for democratic reforms and rule of law in China.
Zhang’s article, which he posted in June, and an online book he wrote entitled New Common Sense that was critical of the party’s rule, rankled authorities and he said university officials tried on several occasions to get him to recant.
He was suspended from teaching in August. Last month, law department and human resources officials asked if he had learned his lesson and would admit wrongdoing, he said yesterday.
“I said I did nothing wrong, so there’s nothing to admit to,” he said.
The dean of the law school summoned him and said on Monday that the administration had decided he was unfit to continue as a teacher in the law department.
“I told him that for a university to persecute a teacher based on his views or thoughts is a serious public event. It could become a scandal of historic proportions,” said Zhang, 36, who also practices human rights law.
A law school official with the same surname declined to comment when contacted by telephone. Calls to the university’s information and propaganda office went unanswered.