Peking University should not expel a liberal professor, Xia Yeliang, for political reasons, faculty members at Wellesley College in the United States urged in an open letter.
In the plea addressed to the university's president, the dean of the School of Economics and the university's party secretary, the 130 American academics urged the university to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and not to fire Xia "based solely on his political and philosophical views".
They said if the university expelled Xia, who has been teaching there since 2000, they would ask Wellesley College to reconsider its institutional partnership with Peking University.
Xia, of the School of Economics, said yesterday he appreciated the support of Western colleagues but did not think it would help him.
"They [Peking University] told me pressuring the university with outside support would not work in my favour," Xia said. The university has told Xia that it will tell him his fate this month.
Wellesley College said in June it was launching a partnership with Peking University that encompasses "faculty and student exchanges, joint research and virtual collaborations".
Xia visited Wellesley College on an academic trip last month.
The Wellesley petition drew a harsh response from Beijing's Global Times, which published an editorial headlined, "Pass the evaluation first if you want to be a Peking University professor".
The editorial, believed to have been written by the editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin , accused Xia - who it called an "extremist liberal" - of trying to seek special treatment simply because he's "advocating freedom and democracy".
"Peking University should not give in to outside pressure and Xia's attitude," the editorial said.
It said the university should make an independent decision by going through "regular procedures".
One of the first signatories of Charter 08, the call for personal freedoms that landed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in jail, Xia is one of the most outspoken liberal voices among Chinese academics.
In 2009 he wrote an open letter to Liu Yunshan, who until last year headed the Communist Party's propaganda department, calling for an end to state censorship.
Xia says he has been constantly watched and harassed.
"Sometimes the plain-clothes officers sit outside my classroom and wait for me while I am teaching or having a meeting," he said.