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Chinese Professor Removed after Reports from ‘Informant’ Students


Chinese students attend their college graduation ceremony in Shanghai's Fudan University July 2, 2011. Chinese media has reported on recent cases of Chinese university students informing on their professors. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
Chinese Professor Removed after Reports from ‘Informant’ Students
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A Chinese professor says he was removed from his job for making statements that university officials did not agree with.

You Shengdong was teaching international trade and economics at Xiamen University’s Tan Kah Kee College in southeastern China. He told VOA, however, that he was recently fired for making what university officials described as “radical” comments in class. You said officials never said exactly what they meant by “radical.”

The 71-year-old professor believes he was removed after a student reported comments he made in class to the school’s administration. The Chinese government-supported Global Times newspaper also reported on You’s dismissal.

In a telephone interview with VOA, You defended his teaching and said he plans to keep speaking the truth. “I take teaching very seriously because these students - coming from all over the country - have dedicated their youth to learning with their parents’ hard-earned money,” he said.

You says this is the first time officials took action against him although he has taught at many universities across the country since the 1980s.

In late 2014, Xiamen University introduced measures to deal with what it called “teaching incidents.” The measures bar teachers from making comments in class that officials consider unconstitutional or that violate Communist Party policies. Accused individuals can appeal their cases with the university.

Tan Kah Kee College did not answer a VOA request for information on You’s case. The professor said that he plans to seek a teaching position at another place.

Hundreds of students joined an internet campaign in support of You. Many of them posted comments on China’s social media service Sina Weibo.

One student described You as “an admirable scholar” whose removal represents “a big loss to the school.” His “words are very true,” another student wrote, praising You for being “bold” and not afraid to always speak his mind.

The Global Times reported that some people criticized students for informing on their professor.

A screenshot of Xiamen University’s Web site, June 29, 2018. The university’s Tan Kah Kee College in southeastern China has fired You Shengdong, a 71-year-old professor teaching international trade and world economics for making what university officials
A screenshot of Xiamen University’s Web site, June 29, 2018. The university’s Tan Kah Kee College in southeastern China has fired You Shengdong, a 71-year-old professor teaching international trade and world economics for making what university officials

"Mr. You cares about his students and I'm honored to take his class this semester,” wrote one student on Sina Weibo. “I don't understand why someone would report a good teacher like him."

The newspaper said You is “the latest example in recent months of teachers being reported by their students for suspected politically inappropriate statements made in the classroom.”

You’s case is not the first. A math professor at Beijing’s University of Civil Engineering and Architecture was punished after students accused her of praising the Japanese as a superior race to the Chinese.

Students at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law informed on a professor who was later dismissed from the Communist Party for comments made in class.

While most of the reaction on social media supported You, some students said they supported the right of students to inform on professors.

"As a teacher, your class is public and your remarks should serve educational purposes. It isn't your personal class after all," one person wrote on Sina Weibo.

Another user added, "If my teacher made such remarks, I would report him. Each case should be viewed according to its context.”

You said some students have told him privately that some other teachers at the college are less likely to speak freely after learning of his removal. But in his case, he says he has no plans now to change who he is.

“I’ve been speaking my mind my entire life. Why would I start telling lies at an old age?” he asked.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Joyce Huang reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English, with additional information from the Global Times. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fire v. dismiss from a job

radical adj. extreme; very different from the traditional

dedicated adj. believing something is very important and giving a lot of time and energy to it

admirable adj. deserving to be admired, very good

inappropriate adj. not suitable

context n. the situation something happens within and that can help explain it

ideology n. a set of ideas or beliefs, especially relating to politics

emigrate v. leave your own country to go and live in another one

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