Many influential alumni of the prestigious Zhejiang University have come together in a rare protest to oppose the government appointment of a chemist who is widely speculated to become the university's new president.
An open letter by the alumni from Zhejiang University in eastern China, one of the nation's top universities, said Lin Jianhua was "mediocre" and called for someone with “honesty, integrity and ability” to be appointed the university's president, a position that has been vacant for months.
The letter was signed by 53 Zhejiang University alumni, according to the 21st Century Economic Report.
Lin is the current head of Chongqing University and is rumoured to become the next head of Zhejiang University, a post that will be appointed by the Ministry of Education.
The open letter, which was widely circulated online, also said Lin indirectly caused the suicide of a Chongqing University professor because of "mismanagement". Faculty members had been unhappy with Lin , the statement said.
The letter was referring to the apparent suicide of Professor Liang Xichang, who worked in a mechanical engineering laboratory at Chongqing University. His death in May came during Lin's tenure and after the lab was taken off a list of state-sponsored facilities.
“Zhejiang University needs an upright and capable academic leader, not a mediocre chief executive,” the letter said.
Lin, a chemist and education official, moved to administrative positions from the academic field in 2002. He later held an administrative position at Peking University and in 2010 became the head of Chongqing University.
Lin could not be reached for comment.
An information officer at Zhejiang University said she had not heard about the letter. The university, in the provincial capital Hangzhou, has churned out many top Chinese scientists and politicians.
The open letter was first posted on Sina Weibo by an alumni signee and shared by thousands. The reactions were mixed.
“I support this. Universities are not the places for the government officials to host political shows,” a Weibo user said.
“All the presidents are appointed by the government. Is there any difference that who will be the principal at this age?” commented another.
One of the signees, Moses Li, of the Zhejiang University Alumni Association, said in an e-mail: “For the time being, I cannot say anything more.”