Doubts raised over the rapid academic rise of the 'Mayor of Tea'

A state media report has questioned how the former deputy governor of Yunnan province, at the centre of a corruption investigation, was swiftly made a professor with only limited qualifications

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 1:34pm

Doubts have been cast over the rapid academic rise of a former top government official from Yunnan who is under investigation for corruption, according to a mainland media report.

Questions have been raised over how Shen Peiping, the province’s former deputy governor, was able to secure a doctorate from a university in Beijing without first apparently getting a master’s degree, the People’s Daily said.

He was then made a professor at the college within five months, breaching regulations on the years of experience needed before taking up a senior academic role, the report said.

Shen was removed from his post in Yunnan this week after the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog said they were investigating his affairs.

He received a doctorate in physical geography from Beijing Normal University in July 2007, the newspaper said. He was appointed an adjunct professor at the college in December the same year.

Shen had originally graduated from the Chinese department at Baoshan College in Yunnan in 1981.

Staff at the university’s office of academic affairs said they had never seen Shen, although it was normal not to come into contact with experts hired by the college, the People’s Daily reported.

The director of the department of resources science and technology at the university, Liu Xuemin, told the newspaper there had been no wrongdoing.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s controversy. Hiring external experts doesn’t follow the college’s normal procedures,” Liu said.

Shen wrote his doctoral thesis on the development of the Puer tea industry in Yunnan under Liu’s supervision. They co-published several similar several papers in 2006 and 2007, according to the report.

Shen was a professor until last year at the resources, economics and policy research centre founded by Beijing Normal University and the city government in Puer.

The centre had funded 10 million yuan (HK$12.6 million ) of research and raised 1.6 million yuan in scholarships by June 2012.

All web pages related to the college and Shen have been taken off the university’s website, but Liu said the college was operating as normal and Shen was still the president of the centre.

Shen, 52, worked in Yunnan for decades before becoming mayor of Puer, a city famous for its tea, from 2007 to 2009.

Dubbed the “Mayor of Tea”, Shen promoted the product to the whole country, an industry that has contributed greatly the city’s economic growth.