In China, Scholars Are Being Punished Amid Growing Squeeze On Public Expression

Space for public expression has been tightening in media, the arts — and now in higher education as well. Some university professors have been fired for expressing views outside the mainstream.
Staff wait at the Cambridge University Press stand at the Beijing International Book Fair in August. An international outcry ensued when the publisher agreed to block certain articles from one of its journals after pressure from Beijing. The press later reversed its decision. / GREG BAKER / Getty Images

When students returned to Beijing Normal University for classes last month, there was a notable absence in the classical Chinese class taught by Shi Jiepeng: Shi himself.

University authorities fired the assistant professor in late July, citing a number of offenses, including "expressing views outside the mainstream of society."

The charges still puzzle the lanky teacher, as he sits speaking to me in a café just outside the university's main gate.

"Sure, my views are a bit different from the mainstream and from official views," he concedes. "But an open society should be able to tolerate them."

China apparently can't. In the past five years, space for public expression has been tightening in media, the arts and civil society. Education hasn't been spared: The ruling Communist Party and congress have ordered the country's institutions of higher learning to build

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