NPR

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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min read
Mindy Kaling And Emma Thompson Shatter The 'Late Night' Glass Ceiling
Thompson plays a successful TV host who pulled the ladder up behind her in the movie Late Night. Kaling says a female late night host is "science fiction," but this was the role she wanted to write.
NPR2 min read
Drake Celebrates Toronto Raptors NBA Championship With 'The Best In The World Pack'
The Toronto rapper celebrates as if he was the one sweating on the court. "I wish that I was playing in a sport where we were getting rings / I wouldn't have space on either hand for anything."
NPR4 min read
Decades Later, 'Tales Of The City' Returns To A New San Francisco
A new Netflix series resurrects the house at Barbary Lane, with characters reprised by Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. Showrunner Lauren Morelli says she aimed to expand the range of queer stories.