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By ChinaChange.org Publishied: August 25, 2013
Last week, associate professor Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠) of East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai was notified that he was stripped of his qualifications to teach at the university. According to Dr. Zhang, the university’s Human Resources office told him that the decision was made “collectively by the university’s communist party committee.” Dr. Zhang promptly challenged the legality of such a decision since he is not a party member.
In a latest statement issued via his WeChat account (@张雪忠) on Sunday, Dr. Zhang Xuezhong related the sequence of his recent interactions with school authorities that shed light on the event:
“On June 4, 2013, I published an article entitled The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013¹(《2013反宪政逆流的根源及危险》). On June 13, four representatives of the university met with me. They were two leaders of the Law School and two leaders of the Human Resources Office. [Through them] the university made it clear to me that the article was in violation of the Constitution of People’s Republic of China, and at the same time, it also violated the teachers’ ethical code as stipulated in the Teachers Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国教师法》), Higher Education Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国高等教育法》), Professional and Ethical Code of Teachers at Higher Education Institutions (《高等学校教师职业道德规范》), and in Opinions with Regard to Strengthening and Improving the Thought and Political Work on Young Teachers at Higher Education Institutions (《关于加强和改进高校青年教师思想政治工作的若干意见》). They said the university would make its decisions according to my responses. The university also presented me with printouts of these laws and regulations, including the Constitution, highlighting the provisions that I was accused of breaching. (My own sense is that the article “got into trouble” because of its candid criticism of some of Xi Jinping’s statements.) At the moment, I told them that writing and publishing the article was completely proper behavior for a citizen exercising his freedom of expression; that if a faculty member of a higher education institution must give up his legitimate freedom of expression to be ethical, it would be a misfortune and shame for the country. I also said I would express to the university, in writing, my views of the decision. A faculty member of the university had the opinion that I was a teacher of civil law and I shouldn’t be writing articles about constitutionalism. I rejoined that, in the classroom and over the course of advising graduate students, I of course should be focusing on civil law, but outside my job, it is my freedom to discuss constitutionalism as a citizen, and the university has no right to interfere. (At the time I really wanted to say, “Marx studied law and philosophy but talked about politics and economics all the time, but you still worship him the way you do your ancestors,” but out of respect for this colleague, I held it back.) During the entire conversation, there was no mention of my book The New Common Sense (《新常识》²). The book has been disseminated online since February, and the university has never asked me to talk about it. After the conversation that day, I posted on Weibo: “Did Zhang Xuezhong Violate the Constitution?” with a photo of the highlighted copy of the Constitution the school representatives had given me. Among others, Professor Tong Zhiwei (童之伟) reposted it with a humorous comment: “Teacher Zhang will not find the answer if he doesn’t study my article in response to Teacher He Weifang (贺卫方)³ (Now that the suspension has provoked wide public attention, the university is denigrating me for “fabricating facts”). At the end of June, 2013, I wrote a letter to the leaders of the university defending my article The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013, sending the letter to the head of the HR office. In July, the university’s CCP party committee made the decision to suspend me from teaching. At 10am, August 17, the university representatives met with me in a café near my home and notified me of the decision, but they claimed they hadn’t received my defense letter. Leaving a fax number, they asked me to fax the letter to the Administration Office again. The conversation ended around 11 am. I faxed the letter (I have kept a photocopy of it) right away as soon as I got home, and received confirmation from the school. What’s weird now is that, when the university warned me about the suspension and asked my opinion of it, it was all about the article The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013 (as I said before, I wrote a defense for it) without ever mentioning The New Common Sense at all. But now the university announced that it had suspended me from teaching because of the book and the bad influence it had had on the students of the university. By using such a tactical feint to fool me, isn’t the university concerned that the public might condemn it for trumping up arbitrary charges against me?”
Last September, Dr. Zhang was temporarily suspended from teaching his undergraduate courses for his support of Hong Kong students and parents fighting the implementation of the so-called “national education” course in Hong Kong schools. Subsequently, Dr. Zhang issued a statement withdrawing his CCP membership, saying that “due to differences in principles between myself and the Chinese Communist Party over the treatment of Marxism and the political future of China, I would be conflicted between my loyalty to the country and my loyalty to the Party if I continue to stay in the organization.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Zhang was among the first college professors to reveal “Seven No Mentions” (“七不讲”), instructions banning the teaching of universal values, press freedom, civil society, civil rights, CCP’s historical mistakes, oligarchical capitalism, and judiciary independence on college campuses.
Dr. Zhang is also a practicing lawyer, currently representing Liu Ping (刘萍) of Xinyu, Jiangsu, and Li Huaping (李化平), of Shanghai, two citizens arrested in April and in August respectively for their participation in the New Citizens’ Movement.
Of the recent crackdown on social media expressions, Dr. Zhang said that true freedom lovers should not be terrified by it; instead, they should inspire more oppressed people to discover their strength and dignity by exemplifying courage.
¹ ChinaChange.org will provide a translation of Dr. Zhang Xuezhong’s article.
³ Professor Tong Zhiwei is a constitutional scholar and teaches in the same university as Dr. Zhang. He Weifang is a renowned legal scholar at Peking University.
Dr. Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠) has been an associate professor of law at East China University of Politics and Law until his recent suspension from teaching. He is also a renowned human rights lawyer.
WeChat account of Dr. Zhang Xuezhong