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Censorship in China

Prominent Chinese university bans staff from criticising Communist Party in class

Guidelines issued by Sun Yat-sen university in Guangzhou, deemed one of the more liberal colleges on the mainland, latest sign of tightened ideological control on the nation’s campuses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 11:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:49pm

A leading university in southern China has banned its teachers from criticising the constitution and leaders of the Communist Party in class, the latest sign of tightening ideological control on the country’s college campuses.

The guidelines issued by the president’s office at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou last Wednesday listed ten things teachers are prohibited from doing in classrooms.

The three items that top the list are “criticising the constitution”, “criticising Chinese Communist Party leaders” and “spreading religion and superstition”.

The university’s publicity department confirmed to the South China Morning Post the guidelines had been issued, but refused to give more details.

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The Communist Party has sought to further tighten its control of academia in recent years with a series of ideological campaigns targeting professors, their academic work and the curriculum.

President Xi Jinping vowed at a high-level meeting last month to turn universities into “strongholds of the party’s leadership” which “firmly uphold the correct political direction”.

Although professors have been told before by the authorities which topics to steer clear of in their teaching, the guidelines issued by Sun Yat-sen University shed light on how colleges themselves are tightening up control of their teaching staff to toe the party’s line.

The issues the central government has previously ruled out of bounds include the “seven don’t mentions” listed in a circular in 2013. These ranged from constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society and media independence.

Sun Yat-sen University, founded over nine decades ago by the revolutionary leader who helped overthrow the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and end China’s imperial rule, is viewed as among the few arguably more liberal universities on the mainland.

A student draped in a rainbow flag came out as lesbian at the college in July 2015 and urged the university’s president to join her call for equal rights during her graduation ceremony.

Another student activist lodged a law suit against the ministry of education last year over school textbooks that describe homosexuality as a mental disorder.

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Other areas banned in the classroom under the new guidelines at Sun Yat-sen University include “using phones during classes” and “entering the classroom after drinking”.

The aim was to “strengthen the teachers’ professional standards, promote and instil good teaching morale and increase their sense of sacredness and awe in classroom teaching”, according to a notice about the issuance of the guideline’s posted on the university’s internal website.

Guo Weiqing, a professor of politics at Sun Yat-sen University, said he had just learned about the measures, but was not sure how his teaching would be affected as he did not know how strictly they would be would be enforced.

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Many outspoken professors who dare to openly criticise the Communist authorities or its leaders have been punished by the authorities.

Deng Xiangchao, a communications professor at Shandong Jianzhu University, was forced to retire this month after criticising Mao Zedong publicly on the eve of the anniversary of the late leader’s birthday.