Zhang Xuezhong, a law professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, was reportedly dismissed from his position during the week of December 9, 2013, in retaliation for writings in which he advocated constitutionalism and challenged China’s system of one-party rule.
Professor Zhang, an outspoken advocate of free speech and the rule of law, was barred from teaching in August 2013, after he wrote an article criticizing the Chinese Communist party establishment for hostility toward constitutionalism. According to Professor Zhang, he was subsequently fired for his refusal to apologize for the contents of that article. In addition, Professor Zhang reportedly circulated an internal memo by university officials relating to an e-book he published in 2013 titled “New Common Sense: The Nature and Consequences of One-Party Dictatorship.” The memo alleged that Professor Zhang had used the university email system to publish the book, and had breached university policy by “forcibly disseminating his political views among the faculty and using his status as a teacher to spread his political views among students.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent dismissal of an academic in retaliation for the content of his academic work and peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and related higher education values including institutional autonomy and social responsibility.