This story caused us to hyperventilate after we realised that it happened right here in what is supposed to be China’s most liberal city. Professor Yang Shiqun (杨师群) of Shanghai’s East China University of Political Science and Law (which by the way is supposed to be a pretty good uni) was reported by two of his female students to the public security bureau and the municipal education committee for his alleged anti-government and counter-revolutionary ideas. Steve Cotner of The Foreign Expert translates a blogpost written by the professor (which seems to have been removed by Sohu in the meanwhile — read his other less subversive views here) telling his side of the story:
Students Accused Me of Being “Counterrevolutionary”
Today, the leaders called me to go have a meeting, saying that during “Ancient Chinese Language” class, students went to the police and city teacher’s association to report me, saying that during class I criticized the government among other things, and the above was already on file for investigation. It was actually ironic: a politics university’s students are actually on the same conceptual road as the cultural revolution, for being able to accuse professors of being counterrevolutionary by any means at all. They are sad, these Chinese university students!
I remember, during “Ancient Chinese Language” class, of course I would criticize some written texts which concern Chinese traditional culture, if some questions about traditional culture have relevance with today, I also would make connections with contemportary times and comment on the government.
I remember, after class there were two female classmates looking for me, indignantly condemning the way I criticized Chinese culture! Criticizing the government! Indeed, their eyes already contained tears. I greatly admire students with this kind of devotion to Chinese culture and the Chinese government, you have this kind of right! But why do I not have the right to comment on Chinese culture and government? So I told them: I also have the right to express my own opinion, if you do not want to attend my class, then in the future do not choose my class, and that’s that. Unawares, they actually went higher up to accuse me, indeed, adding salt to an open wound*, they added “groundless” accusations, actually suprising me**.
It needs to be known, if this kind of thing were discovered during the late Qing dynasty, maybe people would still believe it: and to say that it occured during the republic’s “May 4th” period, nobody would believe it. You know, young people at that time already basically accepted the concepts “democracy,” “freedom,” “human rights,” so normally we wouldn’t find this kind of strange event. Nonetheless, now, in 21st Century China and in Chinese universities, there can often be found such incredible things. Thinking about the most recent strange events found in Chinese schools, I just have a silent prayer for Chinese society and people: when will Chinese society be able to walk away from ignorance? When will Chinese education be able to get on track? When will Chinese students be able to compare well-balanced ideas? [Chinese version from Tianya]
Wang Xiaoyu (王晓渔) of the Southern Metropolis Daily also finds it hard to believe that something like that has happened in Shanghai. Here’s s portion of his editorial translated by David Bandurski of the China Media Project:
“‘Incurring Guilt by One’s Words’ at Universities of Political Science and Law”
By Wang Xiaoyu (王晓渔)
At Tianya Chat (天涯杂谈) and other sites a post has appeared causing passionate debate among Web users, and that post excerpts a portion from the blog of Yang Shiqun (杨师群), a teacher in the cultural institute of East China University of Political Science and Law, which revealed that [some of Yang’s] students had gone to the public security bureau and [Shanghai’s] municipal education committee to report that certain content in Yang’s class had been critical of the government, and that relevant government departments had already [responded to the report] by launching a formal investigation. The post has now been deleted from Yang Shiqun’s blog, and there is no way to learn the latest developments, but many responses from web users support Yang Shiqun’s right to express his own opinions.
In recent years, cases in which people incur guilt by their words have occurred time and again, like the “Pengshui SMS Case” . . . . [See CMP’s recent post on this topic] . . . All of these cases have occurred in regions where economic development has lagged, and at government offices at the county or city level or below, which have a poor appreciation for the concept of rule of law. As citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom of expression in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, these above-listed cases have been quickly corrected once revealed to the outside, and officials concerned have resigned or been removed . . . [Summarizes Xifeng case and anger over current developments].
The Yang Shiqun incident naturally causes some to recall the 2005 Lu Xuesong (卢雪松) case. [In that case,] Lu Xueong, an instructor at Jilin College of the Arts, was formally accused by her students and stripped of her teaching credentials after she discussed with them how China Youth Daily and other media had covered [Hu Jie’s unauthorized] documentary Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul (寻找林昭的灵魂). The Lu Xuesong affair drew a great deal of attention from the academic community, and after it happened friends of mine in the academic community were basically in consensus that this owed largely to the fact that Jilin College of the Arts was a rather insular local academy, and if such a thing were to happen at a national institution in a major city things would turn out differently. But when we look at the Yang Shiqun case it is hard to be optimistic. East China University of Political Science and Law is not located in Xifeng or Pengshui. That a university professor at a college of political science and law would be incriminated by their own words — this is something more absurd than one would expect to find even in the genre of fantasy.