News / Asia

US-China College Partnership Strained By Treatment of Outspoken

The Great Reset Higher Education two instructors, left, teach a literature and law class, while another class of first-year students, right, attend a geology lesson in the classroom in Chongqing, China, (File photo).
The Great Reset Higher Education two instructors, left, teach a literature and law class, while another class of first-year students, right, attend a geology lesson in the classroom in Chongqing, China, (File photo).
Shannon Van Sant
U.S. colleges and universities are expanding into China, setting up satellite campuses with Chinese counterparts to reach new students. In June, Wellesley College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, signed a partnership with Peking University in Beijing. Now Wellesley professors are expressing concern over what they say is a political crackdown at their Chinese sister school.
 
Xia Yeliang is a senior professor of economics at China’s Peking University. Through his classroom lectures and online blogs he has become one of China’s most outspoken advocates of political change.  “I can’t bear it any more.  I think the regression is so shameless," Xia said. "China should have fundamental institutional change to establish constitutional democracy and rule of law.  And I believe in the future, all citizens should have independent rights and should have individual freedom.”
 
His views may cost him his job. In the coming weeks, Peking University, the most prestigious institution of higher learning in China, will hold a vote on whether to fire him.
 
The university is not responding to inquiries about why the professor’s job is in jeopardy. China’s state-run Global Times newspaper published an editorial questioning his job performance, labeling the professor an “extremist liberal.”
 
Xia said his troubles are part of a broader crackdown on freedom of speech under China’s new president, Xi Jinping.  “There are much more severe measures towards intellectuals, even businessmen, for anyone who speaks out.  They have conducted a concentrated campaign over the last few months; they have arrested so many people,” stated Xia.
 
The debate over Xia’s future comes just months after Wellesley College announced an academic partnership with Peking University during a conference in Beijing, where celebrated alumnae such as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke.
 
Now that partnership is under fire from nearly 40 percent of the college’s faculty.  130 Wellesley professors signed a letter urging the college to rethink its partnership with Peking University if Xia is fired.
 
William Joseph is a Professor of Political Science with a focus on Chinese politics and ideology at Wellesley and one of the authors of the letter.  “I have been engaging with this regime [Chinese government] for more than 40 years, and I am willing to live within limits generally," he said. "But when it becomes so specific as in David’s case, where I believe it is so blatantly a violation of academic freedom rather than just self-censorship, that is the major tool of the dictatorship in China, I felt I had no choice other than to take a stand.”
 
Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly responded to the standoff by releasing a statement saying the university faculty would reassess the school’s relationship with Peking University if Professor Xia is fired.
 
Wellesley has heralded the Peking partnership as an opportunity for faculty and student exchanges and joint research. Other U.S. schools have struck similar deals. Duke University broke ground for its China campus in Kunshan in 2010, and classes have begun at New York University’s new “portal” campus in Shanghai.  The universities’ expansion into the world’s fastest growing economy brings new students and dollars to American university campuses at a time of financial strain.
 
But the academic partnerships are coming at a time of China’s heightened scrutiny of individuals who have built a reputation for their outspoken views.
 
Earlier this year authorities unveiled harsh new penalties for internet users who post information online considered “defamatory.” Human Rights Watch reports that more than 55 activists have been arbitrarily detained in China since February of this year.  Wellesley’s William Joseph sees Xia’s situation as part of this trend.
 
“There has obviously been a crackdown in some ways, particularly among intellectuals and universities, faculty, dissidents in general, over the last couple of months, and I think that was a reality check for people who thought that Xi Jinping might be different,” said Joseph.
 
Xia Yeliang’s political activism began more than a decade ago when he wrote what he calls “anti-corruption articles” for newspapers, magazines and academic journals focusing on China’s leadership. He gained prominence in 2008 when he was an early signer of Charter 08, a citizens’ manifesto calling for political change and an end to one-Party rule.
 
Xia said the fallout from his political views began soon after. Once a regular television commentator, state-backed broadcaster CCTV stopped asking him to appear on their shows. He also says Peking University took away two of his professional titles.  Undercover police began to follow and question him, sometimes waiting all night in a car outside of his home.
 
By 2011 Xia said he was so frustrated by the surveillance that he accepted teaching opportunities abroad, first at UCLA and then Stanford.  But he continued to call for greater civic freedoms and eventually was ordered to return home or face dismissal from his job.
 
Now, he faces expulsion from that position from a peer review committee. Wellesley’s William Joseph is skeptical that the review is actually about assessing Xia’s job performance.  “Why someone of that rank and stature should be dismissed, by peer review?  It just doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways,” he stated.
 
Xia is the second college professor this year who said he is being punished for his political beliefs.  Zhang Xuezhong, a lecturer at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, says he was suspended from his teaching responsibilities after he wrote an article urging members of the Communist Party to operate within China’s constitution.  Zhang says university officials told him the article was “unconstitutional” and in violation of university rules.  
 
Xia worries that his outspokenness will lead to jail time and says his wife has implored him to stop his activism.  
 
“I said if there is no one to be on the first line, then there is no one to follow other people.  I’d like to be on the first line.  There should always be someone to stand up and to call on other people.  Of course everyone has a wife, has a family," Xia said.  "Everybody has.  So what is the excuse?  If we want to change the institution, there must be someone who would like to make the sacrifice and give some contribution to that.”
 
Peking University had been expected to vote by the end of September on Xia’s fate. The professor says he has not been notified as to when the vote will occur and it may have been postponed until later this fall.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More