The closing of minds at China’s universities

It has not been a good few years for university teachers in China.

Silenced, sacked, and suspended: This has been the fate of professors across the country who do not toe the Party line — everyone from Tsinghua law professor Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, who is suspended and under investigation for his essays (see China Heritage for translations), to a teacher in Chengdu who was recently stripped of teaching duties after students filed a complaint about remarks he made regarding the “four great inventions of ancient China.”

Now this, from the Twitter feed of Fudan University historian Sūn Pèidōng 孙沛东:

American writer and journalist  Peter Hessler under Chinese name Hé Wěi 何伟, author of “River Town” and “The Buried” who moved to China with his family in August 2019 to teach nonfiction writing at Sichuan University, has possibly been reported for his behavior/speech.

Sun’s tweet includes a screenshot from Weibo with comments from someone who appears to be one of Hessler’s students. Excerpt:

Hessler’s classes at our school are treason and heresy

In class he gave a speech about the sovereignty of a country.

Hessler asked: Why can’t we question a country’s sovereignty? In Quebec, Texas, California, Scotland, people talk about violating their own country’s sovereignty every day…

Considers himself a hotshot writer, so he shoots off at the mouth. I think he’s gonna be in trouble soon.

This may just be a random internet comment that will lead nowhere. But it is sadly indicative of the narrowing space at Chinese universities for views that do not suit the Communist Party.

In other cheerful news from the People’s Republic, China displaced Turkey as the leading jailer of journalists this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’s annual survey. At least 48 journalists are incarcerated in China, where the crackdown in Xinjiang has led to the arrests of “dozens of journalists.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn