Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chinese law professor expelled over article calling for constitutional rule // Dr. Zhang Xuezhong on his interactions with school authorities

BEIJING - A Chinese law professor said Tuesday that he has been expelled from his college after he refused to recant an article he wrote calling for constitutional rule in China.


The expulsion of Zhang Xuezhong from East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai comes at a time when the Chinese authorities are tightening ideological controls, and weeks after Peking University in Beijing dismissed the liberal economist Xia Yeliang from its faculty. Both Zhang and Xia champion free speech and the rule of law, and both believe their expulsions are politically motivated to punish their views.

Zhang, a lecturer at the Shanghai school since 2001, said he was notified orally of the university's decision Monday and that he plans to defend himself with a lawsuit against the school once he receives written notice. “Taking up the legal means will have no effect on my case, but I will use every possibility to counter the (state) power so that the power would think twice when it persecutes others in the future,” Zhang said. The university's Communist Party chief, Du Zhichun, declined to discuss the matter when reached by phone.

Zhang said the institute accuses him of using the school's email system to share his book New Common Sense—The Nature and Consequences of One-Party Rule..
The book criticizes China's one-party rule. The school also says Zhang has imposed his political views upon university faculty and staff and that he has taken advantage of his teacher's role to spread among students his political views in violation of teachers' ethical rules, Zhang said. Zhang said university officials failed to give one example in which he fed his political views to students in the classroom and that exchanging political views with students as equals should be allowed. Zhang said he noted to school officials that the university has forced the government-sanctioned political views upon students.

Political indoctrination is part of the curriculum for Chinese students throughout their school years. In June, Zhang riled the university leadership with an article in which he criticized the unusual campaign by the Beijing establishment against advocacy of constitutionalism. The Chinese Communist Party leadership has been wary of constitutionalism because it has the potential to undermine the party rule. Following the June article, Zhang was banned from teaching any course at the university, but the censure failed to make Zhang contrite. The internal notice said Zhang has failed to realize his mistakes and act to correct them.
“I cannot admit mistakes that do not exist,” Zhang said.

 Dr. Zhang Xuezhong related the sequence of his recent interactions with school authorities
“On June 4, 2013, I published an article entitled The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013¹(《2013反宪政逆流的根源及危险》). On June 13, four representatives of the university met with me. They were two leaders of the Law School and two leaders of the Human Resources Office. [Through them] the university made it clear to me that the article was in violation of the Constitution of People’s Republic of China, and at the same time, it also violated the teachers’ ethical code as stipulated in the Teachers Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国教师法》), Higher Education Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国高等教育法》), Professional and Ethical Code of Teachers at Higher Education Institutions (《高等学校教师职业道德规范》), and in Opinions with Regard to Strengthening and Improving the Thought and Political Work on Young Teachers at Higher Education Institutions (《关于加强和改进高校青年教师思想政治工作的若干意见》). They said the university would make its decisions according to my responses. The university also presented me with printouts of these laws and regulations, including the Constitution, highlighting the provisions that I was accused of breaching. (My own sense is that the article “got into trouble” because of its candid criticism of some of Xi Jinping’s statements.) At the moment, I told them that writing and publishing the article was completely proper behavior for a citizen exercising his freedom of expression; that if a faculty member of a higher education institution must give up his legitimate freedom of expression to be ethical, it would be a misfortune and shame for the country. I also said I would express to the university, in writing, my views of the decision. A faculty member of the university had the opinion that I was a teacher of civil law and I shouldn’t be writing articles about constitutionalism. I rejoined that, in the classroom and over the course of advising graduate students, I of course should be focusing on civil law, but outside my job, it is my freedom to discuss constitutionalism as a citizen, and the university has no right to interfere. (At the time I really wanted to say, “Marx studied law and philosophy but talked about politics and economics all the time, but you still worship him the way you do your ancestors,” but out of respect for this colleague, I held it back.) During the entire conversation, there was no mention of my book The New Common Sense (《新常识》²). The book has been disseminated online since February, and the university has never asked me to talk about it.

After the conversation that day, I posted on Weibo: “Did Zhang Xuezhong Violate the Constitution?” with a photo of the highlighted copy of the Constitution the school representatives had given me. Among others, Professor Tong Zhiwei (童之伟) reposted it with a humorous comment: “Teacher Zhang will not find the answer if he doesn’t study my article in response to Teacher He Weifang (贺卫方)³ (Now that the suspension has provoked wide public attention, the university is denigrating me for “fabricating facts”). At the end of June, 2013, I wrote a letter to the leaders of the university defending my article The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013, sending the letter to the head of the HR office. In July, the university’s CCP party committee made the decision to suspend me from teaching. At 10am, August 17, the university representatives met with me in a café near my home and notified me of the decision, but they claimed they hadn’t received my defense letter. Leaving a fax number, they asked me to fax the letter to the Administration Office again. The conversation ended around 11 am. I faxed the letter (I have kept a photocopy of it) right away as soon as I got home, and received confirmation from the school. What’s weird now is that, when the university warned me about the suspension and asked my opinion of it, it was all about the article The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013 (as I said before, I wrote a defense for it) without ever mentioning The New Common Sense at all.  But now the university announced that it had suspended me from teaching because of the book and the bad influence it had had on the students of the university. By using such a tactical feint to fool me, isn’t the university concerned that the public might condemn it for trumping up arbitrary charges against me?”


See also
Chinese media and the politics of forgetting: Tiananmen anniversary - June 4, 1989

Chinese Journalists resist censorship: Timothy Garton Ash on The Southern Weekly affair

Looking Back at the June 4 Massacre, Twenty-Four Years on

The Crises of Party Culture: by Yang Guang
The crises of Party culture become clear with a single glance. The CPC is called the ruling party, yet it operates according to secret party rules: this is an identity crisis. Its formal ceremonies and slogans are like those of an extremist church, and it has long lost its utopian doctrine that stirred the passion of the people: this is an ideological crisis. It tells beautiful lies while accepting bribes and keeping mistresses: this is a moral crisis. The totalitarian system is in the process of collapsing, yet political reform is not in the foreseeable future: this is a political crisis. It has corrupted traditional values and also rejected universal values, rendering Party members and government officials at a spiritual loss: this is a crisis of values.