University in China's Chongqing Demotes Professor Over Comments Made in Class

2019-03-29
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Tang Yun, a deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, in undated photo.
Tang Yun, a deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, in undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A university in the southwestern city of Chongqing has barred another professor from the classroom as the ruling Chinese Communist Party wages ideological warfare on the country's campuses.

Tang Yun, a 56-year-old deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, was stripped of his rank and teaching credentials after he made "comments injurious to the country's reputation," an official directive issued by the school said.

Tang, who penned the university's anthem, was also accused of being "a bad influence" on staff and students at the school.

Attempts to contact Tang on Friday were unsuccessful. However a poem said to be written by him circulated on WeChat.

"I leave today, clothed in shame," Tang wrote of his 33-year teaching career. "But tomorrow I will certainly return garlanded with laurels."

An employee who answered the phone at the Chongqing Normal University offices on Friday declined to comment, referring all inquiries to the propaganda department.

However, an official who answered the phone at the propaganda department said they were unaware of Tang's situation, and declined a request for an interview.

"I don't know about this," the official said, before hanging up the phone.

Rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said media reports had indicated that Tang was accused of making "certain comments" while teaching a class on the revolutionary author Lu Xun.

"He said something during his class 'Researching Lu Xun' that was considered to harm the country's reputation, but the media didn't say what it was," Liu told RFA on Friday.

"I haven't been able to find it online, either, but I saw online that some of his comments had been reported to the authorities by students," he said.

Crackdown is harming everyone

Tang's firing comes after President Xi Jinping tightened ideological controls over all aspects of society, including universities, colleges and schools.

The approach stems from a 2013 article titled "Improving Ideological and Political Work Among Young Teachers in Colleges and Universities," and from Xi's reiteration of the "Seven Taboos" that mustn't be discussed in public by servants of the state, including teachers.

The seven banned topics are: universal values of human rights and democratic, constitutional government; press freedom; civil society; citizens' rights; the historical mistakes of the ruling Chinese Communist Party; the financial and political elite; and judicial independence.

Earlier this month, Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun was banned from teaching and counseling students after he published an article last July hitting out at the return of totalitarianism under the Chinese Communist Party, including the abolition of presidential term limits and a cult of personality around Xi.

He called for amendments pushed through by China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) in 2018 to be revoked, and for an end to massive international expenditure to boost China's influence overseas, as well as legislation requiring officials to publish details of their assets and financial interests.

Guizhou University professor Yang Shaozheng, who was fired outright after he made comments critical of the ruling party in an online article, said the crackdown is harming everyone, however.

"This is to do with the right to freedom of speech and expression," Yang said. "My right to express myself was violated, and the authorities will do the same to anyone else who dares to say what they're really thinking."

"Actually, this is harmful to every single person in our country," he said. "Tang Yun's case is in essence the same as my being accused of politically incorrect language in the classroom."

Yang said there have been a string of punishments meted out to liberal-minded professors at some of China's top universities.

"Tsinghua University, Peking University, there are so many," he said.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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