Outspoken economist resigns from think-tank

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am

Bosses suggest critic of property policy was removed for embarrassing officials

A high-profile economist known for his criticism of the government's property policy has been removed from a leading position with a state think-tank because of his outspokenness.

Colleagues said Yi Xianrong had quit as head of the Finance Research Centre under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. But comments by Professor Yi's bosses suggested the scholar was removed because he was too outspoken.

'Professor Yi has resigned from the position. It is an internal decision made by our institute,' said Wang Guogang , a vice-president of the Institute of Banking and Finance, to which the research centre is affiliated.

His reference to 'an internal decision' suggested disciplinary action had been taken against Professor Yi.

The researcher could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Li Yang , head of the institute, appeared to suggest Professor Yi had resigned because of his outspokenness on property policy.

Asked why Professor Yi had resigned, Mr Li said the academy would not 'tolerate anyone making comments without [proper] exposition and argument'.

'Issues about property are very complicated and they could not be explained clearly in a brief manner,' the Beijing Commercial News quoted Mr Li, a former adviser to the People's Bank of China, as saying.

Contributors to online forums voiced support for Professor Yi, whose writings and opinions are widely available on the internet.

In an online letter, a group of economists appealed for support for Professor Yi, and said his resignation was a setback for academic freedom.

'We appeal for support for Yi Xianrong, who resigned because he spoke up for those housing slaves,' said the letter, referring to homeowners struggling to make mortgage repayments.

The letter was signed by 11 economists of the Civilian Economics Research Institute.

Reports of Professor Yi's resignation were swiftly removed from some websites yesterday.

Professor Yi has criticised the collusion between developers and officials, whom he blamed for big rises in house prices.

In 2004, he challenged a Ministry of Construction report that sought to justify rising real estate prices, and predicted a property bubble on the mainland.

Last year, he criticised the National Bureau of Statistics for miscalculating inflation by excluding property prices from the consumer price index.

He also questioned the data compiled by the bureau and the National Development and Reform Commission on property prices in 70 leading cities, saying housing prices had risen much faster than their indexes suggested.

Professor Yi's outspoken manner had embarrassed officials and regulators.