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Chinese Professor Suspended for Teaching Constitutionalism

Categories: East Asia, China, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Law

An outspoken law professor was suspended in China from his teaching position for teaching and writing articles about constitutionalism.

In June 2013, Professor Zhang Xuezhong of East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai published an article entitled “The Origin and Perils of the Anti-constitutionalism Campaign in 2013″ (《2013反宪政逆流的根源及危险》). On August 17, Zhang was notified by the university that his qualifications to teach at school had been revoked. The decision was made by the university’s communist party committee, according to China Change [1], a human rights website.

“The university made it clear to me that the article was in violation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and at the same time, it also violated the teachers’ ethical code,” Zhang explained in a statement via his WeChat account.

Professor Zhong Xuezhong (Pic from Sina Weibo)

Professor Zhong Xuezhong. Photo from Sina Weibo [2]

Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend [3] was heavily censored earlier this year when it called for constitutional rule in China.

Zhang Xuezhong is a high profile liberal in China. In September 2012, Zhang was temporarily suspended for his support for those opposed to the “national education” courses [4] in Hong Kong schools. In May 2013, when the Chinese Communist Party issued an instruction to educational institutions banning [5] the teaching of seven sensitive topics, Zhang was one of the first professors to reveal the issue on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo. The “Seven Speak-Nots” policy prohibits discussion of “universal values, civil society, citizen rights, judicial independence, freedom of the press, past mistakes of the communist party, and the privileged capitalist class” in university settings. Zhang’s Weibo account has since been deleted.

In March 2013, Zhang published a book titled [6] [h] “The New Common Sense—The Nature and Consequences of One-Party Rule.”

Many Weibo users showed support for Zhang and his notion on constitutionalism, yet most comments were soon deleted.

Lawyer Zhang Quan wrote [7] [zh]:


It is necessary to implement constitution to limit the government’s power, which is the direction of development of human society. Fundamentally it’s about human rights, not party rights. With unlimited power, sooner or later there will be problems. But the way and process to constitutional rule can be discussed.

 Web user “Lixing Zheren” criticized [8] [zh]:


The university’s denial of freedom of thought and the spirit of academic freedom means that a nation is in denial of civilization. I can bluntly say that from Professor Zhang Xuezhong’s experience, Chinese intellectuals have showed their cowardice because for a school of thousands of teachers and students, there’s only one man fighting like Galileo in the Middle Ages! Isn't it the tragedy of the times and the nation?

Web user “Wang Dongcheng” echoed [9] [zh] the same sentiment:


For university teachers, the ethical code is “independence of thought and freedom of spirit”. Zhang Xuezhong's words and deeds showed that he has followed the ethics. At a time when not many university lectures voice their real opinions, Zhang Xuezhong is in particular valuable.