Peking University celebrates 120th anniversary after a season of scandals | Society News | SupChina

Peking University celebrates 120th anniversary after a season of scandals

In celebration of its 120th anniversary, Peking University, one of China’s most prestigious universities, held a ceremony (in Chinese) at the school’s Khoo Teck Puat Gymnasium on May 4. It was attended by senior politicians, notable alumni, and current school faculty and students.

Guests included the former chief executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa 董建华, Thailand’s crown princess, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Baidu’s CEO, Li Yanhong 李彦宏, and a 99-year-old alumnus from the National Southwest Associated University, a wartime union of universities that included Peking University.

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To no one’s surprise, the two-hour-long event comprised lengthy speeches, flattering videos, and unnecessary amounts of applause.

Before this year’s celebration, rumors spread that Li Chenjian 李沉简, vice dean of the school’s Yuanpei College 元培学院, had resigned (from that position, not his teaching duties) after circulating an essay that rebuked his colleagues and Chinese intellectuals in general for rampant “shamelessness and cynicism,” as well as spinelessness for fear of suppression from the establishment.

‘Modern Chinese intellectuals are spineless’: Peking University vice dean reportedly resigns after provocative essay

Soon after the resignation, the university was caught in a Me Too scandal when current student Yue Xin 岳昕 accused school officials of silencing her activism about a two-decades-old sexual harassment case, which possibly caused a former PKU student’s suicide.

Peking University student to school: Stop trying to gag me on rape case!

At the ceremony, there was no mention of these scandals at all. Instead, the event was self-congratulatory. Ironically, in a compilation video of presidents from other universities singing praises of PKU, Wei Shyy 史維, acting president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, lauded PKU as “an indicator of the social conscience of Chinese intellectuals.” The remark was greeted with a loud round of applause.

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The PKU authorities’ lack of self-awareness did not generate much discussion on Chinese social media, but a speech by the university’s president, Lin Jianhua 林建华, drew internet users’ attention: Lin mispronounced the word 鸿鹄之志 (hónghúzhīzhì; literally “swan” but used to mean a person with noble aspirations). “This is so embarrassing. Can he step down?” an internet user commented (in Chinese).

Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

One Comment

  1. Hoyoung Yoo Reply

    Reading this article reminded me two things.

    First, #metoo movement, which is quite an issue in South Korea, has finally spread to China. I would say this is a very positive move even though we can not exclude its side-effect accusing an innocent man (or woman) guilty just because of an interview (like Prof. Shen Yang’s case; even though I am not saying he is innocent). I can not agree more to that all the women (or men) should report sexual harassment without hesitation, but no one should ever be denounced until there is an undeniable proof.

    In addition, a minor scandal might lead to a significant change. Anyone who understand how former President Park of South Korea was impeached would understand that the trigger to the national level scandal was a very small scandal. Frankly, I do not know how corrupted systems are in China, macro and micro-wise. However, I hope the scandal could lead more and more people demanding transparency.

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