Scholar Says University in Shanghai Fired Him ; He Promoted Rule of Law and Urged Government to Adhere to Constitution

By Jacobs, Andrew | International New York Times, December 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Scholar Says University in Shanghai Fired Him ; He Promoted Rule of Law and Urged Government to Adhere to Constitution


Jacobs, Andrew, International New York Times


Zhang Xuezhong, who teaches in Shanghai, has repeatedly called on the government to abide by its own Constitution. University officials did not respond to calls and a fax seeking comment.

Officials at one of China's most respected universities have reportedly fired an outspoken legal scholar for advocating the rule of law and for repeatedly calling on the government to abide by its own Constitution.

The scholar, Zhang Xuezhong, who taught at East China University of Political Science and Law, said administrators notified him on Monday that he would be dismissed after he refused to apologize for writings that championed the protections guaranteed by the Constitution. Mr. Zhang's teaching privileges were temporarily suspended in August after the publication of an article detailing the Communist Party's growing hostility to the nation's legal system.

"I told them I had made no mistakes whatsoever," Mr. Zhang, 47, said in a telephone interview. "I'm just a university faculty member who expresses his own opinions, thoughts and proposals, which is absolutely my right. This is an out-and-out witch hunt."

University officials did not respond on Tuesday to calls and a fax seeking comment. The dismissal is sure to send a chill through Chinese academia, which has come under increasing pressure amid an ideological campaign that seeks to rein in liberalism and promote obedience to the Communist Party. At a time when American educational institutions are rushing to open overseas branches and build partnerships with Chinese universities, Mr. Zhang's removal is also likely to draw renewed attention to the political constraints that hamper open discourse at even the most vaunted Chinese schools.

In October, Peking University fired an economist who is a vociferous critic of single-party rule. Administrators claimed that their refusal to renew the contract of the professor, Xia Yeliang, was based on poor teaching and his failure to keep up with publishing requirements. Mr. Xia, a vocal champion of multiparty elections, said he had been repeatedly warned to tamp down his politically charged words and activism.

Mr. Xia's dismissal reverberated beyond China, especially on American and European campuses that share academic programs with Peking University, considered one of the nation's best and most liberal educational institutions. Despite some initial hand- wringing, notably at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts, and the London School of Economics, none of the schools altered their relationship with Peking University. …

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