SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 14, 2018

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Xiamen University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 14, 2018, it was reported that You Shengdong, a professor of international trade and world economics at Tan Kah Kee College of Xiamen University, was fired from his position after a student reportedly informed authorities about political comments he made during lectures.

In October 2014, China’s Ministry of Education set out regulations regarding teachers’ behavior, including banning teachers from infringing upon China’s national interest or violating Communist Party policy. Violations of the regulations subject educators to administrative penalties, including demotion or termination of their contracts. That same year, Xiamen University introduced measures to punish so-called “teaching incidents,” including unconstitutional or anti-Communist party statements .

Professor You’s dismissal is reportedly one of several recent incidents in which students have alleged regulatory violations by their professors. In April 2018, for example, Xu Chuanqing, a teacher of mathematics at the Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, received an administrative penalty after being reported by a student on WeChat and Weibo (Chinese social media platforms); that same month, a teacher at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law was reportedly expelled after students reported that he had made remarks that violated Communist Party policies.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the content of his academic work and peaceful exercise of the right of free expression during class. 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. Professional retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including university autonomy and social responsibility.