An economics professor at Peking University is in danger of losing his job because of his outspoken criticism of China’s political leaders.
Xia Yeliang was told that the university would vote on whether to keep him on the faculty. Xia returned this fall to Peking U from a visiting professorship in the USA.
The university has not said why he is being subjected to the vote. The professor said it was related to his liberal political views and his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government. Administrators at the School of Economics and elsewhere in the university declined interview requests from The Chronicle.
In 2008, Mr. Xia was one of the first people to sign Charter 08, a petition that called for democratic freedoms and human rights in China. Eventually more than 300 intellectuals signed the statement.
In the following year, the professor wrote a letter on his blog to Liu Yunshan, then director of the Communist Party’s propaganda department and now a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the group of politicians who run China. The letter criticized Mr. Liu for “how he thinks he has the power to control other people’s thoughts” and called for an end to censorship.
Xia’s problems are another indicator of the tough stance against free expression set by China’s new president, Xi Jinping, who is wary of Western influences on the Chinese public.
University professors have been advised to steer away from certain topics, such as democracy and free speech, in classroom discussions and lecture. China’s Internet censors have also clamped down hard on users of Sina Weibo, the country’s native version of Twitter. A prominent Weibo user, businessman Charles Xue Biqun, was arrested on sex-crime charges last month and apparently was compelled to recant his criticism of the government on national TV several days ago.
Professor Xia is another lightning rod for government efforts to squelch criticism of the Party leadership.
I have a copy of Charter 08 at my blog.