Liberal economist Mao Yushi has cancelled a talk in a bustling Zhejiang city next week amid mounting pressure from leftist conservatives.
Mao, 84, said yesterday that he had decided not to attend the business forum in Xiaoshan because he did not want to see a repeat of the chaotic scenes that have followed him in recent weeks.
Mao, a prominent advocate of free-market economics, has been forced to either cancel or scale back several talks amid an apparent escalation in the feud between the leftist conservatives and liberals.
The liberals have come under fire from leftists and conservative media outlets affiliated to the Communist Party for promoting constitutionalism over one-party rule, with the People's Daily dismissing constitutionalism as a facet of capitalism.
Mao, a staunch critic of Mao Zedong , was disrupted by a leftist historian who was removed by security during a speech at a symposium in Shenyang , Liaoning province, on April 25.
Hundreds of leftists held portraits of Mao Zedong and banners and placards denouncing the economist at a rally in Changsha , Hunan , to protest against a talk the economist planned to give at a local bookstore on May 4.
That talk was scaled back to a closed-door discussion.
Mao said he was scheduled to give a keynote speech at the Xiaoshan business forum on June 22 about the prospects for reform in China and what that would mean to Chinese companies.
The forum was organised by the developer of the New Century Plaza and a staff member overseeing ticket distribution for the event said a thousand tickets had been available to the public. She said she was not aware of Mao's decision to pull out.
The official Xiaoshan Daily has been criticised for running a one-page advertisement on June 9 to promote Mao's talk.
A Xiaoshan Daily editor who declined to give his name said they had received several phone calls complaining about the advertisement and demanding the cancellation of the talk.
On the Red Song Club forum at Shhgh.com an online bastion for leftist conservatives, one commentator challenged the newspaper for promoting a foreign collaborator like Mao Yushi, saying it was supposed to be loyal to the Communist Party.
"The advertisement led us to doubt whether the Xiaoshan Daily is still a party newspaper, and even more this has left with us an impression that it has chosen to be a rogue tabloid in opposition to the central leadership of the party," it added.
Hu Xingdou , a political economist at Beijing Institute of Technology, said the recent aggression by leftist conservatives had much to do with them feeling emboldened by some left-leaning comments from top leaders and a recent state media campaign targeting liberals.
Hu said the leftist campaigns seen during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution had never completely disappeared - as was obvious in Chongqing during the rule of its now disgraced party secretary Bo Xilai .
He said that persecutory tactics bearing the hallmarks of the Cultural Revolution were still rife in many parts of the country.
However, Hu said the new leadership was unlikely to stray from the liberal reform put in place by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping three decades ago, which had put the country on the road to prosperity.
"Any top leaders with a vision have to realise that the leftist movement is much more of a threat to the country than liberals or any other political beliefs, as we saw during the Cultural Revolution," Hu said.