photo from China Daily
The crackdown on the anti-crackdown squad seems to have begun. Beijing police have arrested four men – including a professor – believed to have been responsible for last month’s assault on Fang Zhouzhi. Fang is notorious for his hard-hitting exposures of religious fakes, bogus researchers and fraudulent academics.
Fang, who posts the exposes on his “New Thread” website, was attacked by three men on his home after a television interview on 29 August. According to the police, the three alleged assailants have pointed fingers to Xiao Chuanguo, head of the Urology Department at Wuhan Union Hospital, for instigating the attack. Professor Xiao was arrested at Shanghai’s Pudong airport on Tuesday.
Fang had worked with Caijing editor Fang Xuanchang on a story exposing a cancer medicine as fraudulent and that claimed that Professor Xiao had exaggerated his academic credentials. After his arrest, Professor Xiao confessed to police that the article had made him lose an appointment with the China Academy of Sciences and the attack was meant as revenge. Fang Xuanchang, too, had been victim to a similar attack in June, though his assailants still remain at large.
Academic fraud and pseudoscience have become a serious problem in new China. From pirated goods to fake DVDs, the copycat culture has also permeated university life, where professors impart not just knowledge but ways to cheat and not get caught. It has gotten so out of hand that in February this year, the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council released a circular specifying punishments for students found guilty of copy-and-pasting their work, including a refusal to grant degrees to cheats and a revocation of degrees that had already been rewarded. Tutors who are found accomplice to cheating are liable for suspension too.
Will the government’s latest ferretting out of Fang Zhouzi’s assailants be the first strike in a larger crackdown on those who attempt to muffle the truth? Fang himself has said that the attack will not dampen his spirits in the crusade against academic fraud and pseudoscience. Now that the police have signalled their intention to join his camp with the latest arrests, let’s hope that other whistle-blowers will feel the same way too.
Written by Debbie Yong