It is hardly news that the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) infringes on academic freedom and freedom of expression. During the Cultural Revolution, millions of intellectuals were killed, driven to suicide, or detained in labor camps. After that, the Party seemed to attempt to restore its relationship with intellectuals, but from time to time it has failed to hide its hostility to them. The C.C.P. has never hesitated to punish those who deviate from the Party line by silencing, humiliating, and throwing them into prison.
The C.C.P. has an ever-increasing list of forbidden zones: the Tiananmen massacre, Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibet, underground churches, political dissidents, human rights activists, corruption of top leaders, torture, organ transplants, and so forth. Intellectuals who intrude into the forbidden zones, or anger the Party with any research or writings, pay a heavy price, such as dismissal, conviction, detention, disappearance, and torture.
I began to teach at China University of Political Science and Law in 2003. While I taught, I worked as a human rights lawyer. Because my work treaded on the C.C.P.’s forbidden zones, I never was promoted, received a research grant, or was able to publish books. After I signed Charter 08, I was banned from teaching for the first time. In 2009, I was suspended again for participating in a conference in Beijing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Then, I was abducted by the secret police three times, before eventually being fired in September 2014.
The last time I was allowed to teach in China was in 2012, right before Xi Jinping came to power. Since then, scholars with critical views have become more susceptible to dismissal and detention. The 2013 Party directive known as “Document 9” exhorts Party members to “conscientiously strengthen management of the ideological battlefield” by guarding against universal values, freedom of the press, civil rights, Party-elite capitalism, and judicial independence. Tightening restrictions on universities is only the tip of the iceberg of Xi Jinping’s repression of civil society. All the forces in favor of an open society, including rights lawyers, dissidents, the Internet, journalists, NGOs, and underground churches, have been severely suppressed. Xi’s efforts to build a cult of personality, establish a social credit system, adopt surveillance technology, and wage war against religion are coalescing into a new “high-tech totalitarianism.” So it’s no surprise that Xu was stifled after he courageously criticized Xi and his perverse policies.
The C.C.P.’s regime is essentially anti-intellectual. Whenever it senses a political, financial, or ideological crisis, it launches a war on thought, reproducing and updating its 1957 purge of intellectuals. We are in the midst of such a purge now. In a recent report, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) identified 386 Uighur intellectuals disappeared or detained in internment camps or prisons, six of whom died in custody or soon after their release. The Party’s brainwashing, censorship, and propaganda have been effective. If they continue, it will become increasingly difficult to cultivate a spirit of freedom in China.
blog comments powered by Disqus