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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora