By David BandurskiCMP wrote recently about some limited discussion in China’s media about a number of recent cases in which Chinese citizens have “incurred guilt through their words.” This week, in the latest instance of this basic violation of China’s constitutionally guaranteed right to “freedom of expression,” a professor at Shanghai’s East China University of Political Science and Law is reportedly under investigation after his students reported him to local police for alleged anti-government views. [Frontpage Image: “Cultural Revolution for sale” by El Freddy available at Flickr under Creative Commons license.]

In an editorial on page A31 of today’s Southern Metropolis Daily, Wang Xiaoyu (王晓渔) reflects on the Yang Shiqun (杨师群) case and its significance.

Importantly, Wang points out that this case differs from other recent wenziyu (文字狱) cases in that it has happened at a national educational institution in a major Chinese city.

A portion of the editorial follows:

‘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.

FURTHER READING: (Updated November 28, 2008)
These Cases Lately of Students Accusing Teachers are Simply Ridiculous,” Zhang Ming, Zhujiang Evening Post, November 28, 2008

[Posted by David Bandurski, November 27, 2008, 12:37pm]