A Chinese university professor has been reportedly denounced by student informants for “opposing the (Chinese Communist) Party and violating the constitution” (反党违宪) amid a growing crackdown on free speech on Chinese campuses.

According to media reports, Lü Jia (吕嘉), associate professor at the School of Marxism of the prestigious Tsinghua University, in China’s capital Beijing, was denounced by some of his students after he gave a PowerPoint presentation on “Thought, virtue, self-education, and legal principles” (思想道德修养与法律基础).

The Grand Auditorium at Tsinghua University (Image by Pfctdayelise via Wikimedia Commons)

Some students regarded Lü’s viewpoints as ideologically mistaken and on March they sent a letter to Tsinghua University’s Discipline Inspection Commission and the Communist Party Committee, demanding that they might “as soon as possible investigate and examine the speech by teacher Lü Jia.” The letter was widely circulated on China‘s internet. The authorities quickly replied, thanking the students and assuring them that they would soon open an investigation.

According to the students, Mr. Lü “publicly advocated subjective idealism and dualism, misrepresented dialectical materialism, and encouraged religious culture; (he) distorted the views of scientific socialism and denied that socialism with Chinese characteristics is scientific socialism.; (he) opposed the spirit of collectivism, opposed the principle that the Chinese people are their own masters, opposed public ownership; (he) smeared the Chinese nation’s spiritual state and cultural achievements. ” The students further accused Lü of “using fabricated evidence and data.”

The practice of students denouncing their teachers on ideological grounds was common during the Mao Zedong era, when the Communist regime launched a series of “thought reform” campaigns.

Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, Beijing has sought to tighten its grip on society by suppressing free speech to a degree not seen since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

In recent years, free speech on Chinese campuses has been restricted and professors dismissed or demoted for expressing opinions that the Communist leadership disliked.

On March 25 Tsinghua professor Xu Zhangrun (许章潤) was suspended and investigated after he said in a lecture last year that “totalitarian politics has fully returned” and that he looked forward to “China reinstating term limits.” Term limits, which were adopted to prevent the rise of a new personality cult, were scrapped in 2018, allowing Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely.

Tang Yun (唐云),associate professor at Chongqing Normal University, was demoted at the end of March for comments that were deemed by the authorities “injurious to the country’s reputation.” Zhai Juhong (翟桔紅), associate professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, was also dismissed for criticizing the abolition of term limits.

In 2013 Xia Yeliang (夏业良), a liberal economist, former economics professor at Beijing University’s School of Economics, and co-author of the Charter 08 manifesto, was dismissed from his position. Xia is an opponent of autocratic rule and he was one of the first prominent intellectuals to be purged after Xi took power.

Chongqing Normal University professor Tan Song (谭松) was expelled in 2017 for comments challenging the Communist Party’s official historiography.

In 2018, Xiamen University professor You Shengdong (尤盛東) was removed from his position after students reported some of his remarks to the authorities. The same year, Yang Shaozheng (杨绍政), a professor at Guizhou University’s School of Economics, was fired after he published an article estimating the cost of maintaining the Chinese Communist Party’s apparatus.

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