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China’s thought police having busy year

BEIJING (SE): Beijing Normal University opened its academic year in September minus an assistant professor of classical Chinese, Shi Jiepeng.
National Public Radio USA reported that Shi was told he was fired in late July for expressing views outside the mainstream of society, which still puzzles him.
He told the American broadcaster, “Sure, my views are a bit different from the mainstream and from official views. But an open society should be able to tolerate them.”
Nevertheless, it appears they are not tolerated in China, as over the past five years space for public expression has been tightening in the media, the arts and civil society.
National Public Radio USA says that neither has education been spared and both the Communist Party and the congress have ordered institutions of higher learning to build themselves into bastions of socialist and Marxist ideology, while purging campuses of liberal thought and subversive foreign ideas.
The media outlet believes that this could have a negative impact on China’s stated ambition to push its colleges and universities into the top rung of world education and certainly it will affect the millions of local students seeking admission to universities overseas, as well as being a deterrent to foreign scholars studying in China.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, an internal control apparatus of the Communist Party, is spearheading the drive, which besides rooting out corruption involves itself in enforcing political loyalty and ideological conformity in academia.
This year it has carried out inspections on campus in 30 of the country’s top universities and around half were found wanting in the area of political work.
“The party secretary of my institute told me that the inspectors had criticised me by name,” Shi told National Public Radio USA.
He says inspectors appear to have targeted him because of columns he wrote for a newspaper and his postings on social media.
Shi pointed out that actually this reflects a breakdown in the rule of law, as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is charged with enforcing Communist Party rules, but since he is not a party member, it should have no jurisdiction over him.
In his social media postings, Shi had criticised Mao Zedong, calling him a demon for his role in political mass movements including the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
Shi finds this strange as the party itself admits that Mao made mistakes and such statements were not grounds for substantial punishment a few years ago.
He was also critical of a former emperor called Wu, from the Han Dynasty, who ruled China a few decades before Julius Caesar controlled ancient Rome.
Shi explained that Wu’s wars of conquest against nomadic tribes expanded the Chinese empire in all directions, but an estimated one-fifth of the population perished in military adventures, forced labour on huge infrastructure projects and mass executions of anyone suspected of plotting rebellion.
“I criticised Wu because I believe the welfare of the individual is more important than any ruler’s political or military achievements,” Shi explained.
He added that he sympathises with students in Hong Kong and Taiwan who find it difficult to identify with China, which may prompt them to advocate independence, as local identity is an important kind of freedom.
While it appears that his dismissal was a decision made locally by the university, Shi believes that the board could not resist the heat put on them by the party inspection team and bowed to its demands.

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