China's War on Academic Freedom

Article excerpt

An economist who angered the authorities is the latest casualty of "ideological purification."

Peking University's decision last week to dismiss Professor Xia Yeliang, an economist and advocate of the free market, is making news around the world. The dismissal could hurt Peking University's connections with American and European universities, and tarnish its reputation. In the spirit of academic freedom, universities that have collaborative ties with Peking University -- Stanford, Cornell, Yale, the London School of Economics and many others -- should be putting pressure on China's leading university to reinstate Mr. Xia.

In September, 130 faculty members at Wellesley College urged in a letter to the president of Peking University not to fire Mr. Xia "based solely on his political and philosophical views." They said that if he is fired, they would ask Wellesley College to reconsider the formal academic relationship it signed with Peking University in June.

A recent editorial in the state-run Global Times castigated Mr. Xia as an "extreme liberal" advocating "freedom and democracy." His troubles with state and university authorities began when he signed a petition urging democratic change in 2008. The primary author of the petition, known as Charter 08, is the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion.

Yet this month, Peking University was one of nine Chinese universities to sign a pact to uphold academic freedom along with the League of European Research Universities, Australia's Group of Eight universities, and the Association of American Universities. …