Monday, February 16, 2015

China's Search Engines Censor Searches for Scholar Who Questioned Education Minister's Anti-Western Values Stance

On January 29, 2015, Xinhua published a report entitled "Yuan Guiren: University Instructors Must Comply with the Bottom Lines of Politics, Law, and Ethics." (袁贵仁:高校教师必须守好政治、法律、道德三条底线) Some excerpts:
On January 29, at a meeting to study the spirit of the “Opinion Regarding Further Strengthening and Improving Propaganda and Ideology Work in Higher Education Given New Circumstances," Minister of Education Yuan Guiren stated that university instructors must comply with the bottom lines of politics, law, and ethics.
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Yuan Guiren pointed out that in order to implement the "Opinion" in a practical manner, it is necessary to strengthen controls over the ideological battlefield at institutions of higher learning, and in particular to strengthen controls over the creation of teaching materials and in-class instruction. Strengthen controls over how Western-derived teaching materials are used, and under no circumstances allow into our classrooms any teaching materials that spread Western value systems. Under no circumstances permit any discussion that attacks or defames the Party's leaders or smears socialism to take place in college classrooms. Under no circumstances permit any discussion that violates the Constitution or laws to spread in college classrooms. Under no circumstances permit instructors to grouse and complain in the classroom, or inculcate a bad mood amongst the student body.
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At the same time, take the initiative in keeping a hold over online discussion, and do a good job of building and managing campus Internets. . . . Take as your first and foremost criteria mastery of that which is political and assemble cohorts of ideology propagandists at institutions of higher learning.
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On January 31, 2015, a text began appearing on the Internet under the title "Beijing University Professor Shen Kui's Three Questions to Minister of Education Yuan Guiren: The 4th Plenum of the 18th Party Congress Called for Governing the Country in Accordance with the Constitution and the Law, and Your  January 29 Speech has Left People Confused Beyond Comprehension." (北大教授沈岿三问袁贵仁部长:中国共产党十八届四中全会大力倡导依宪治国、依法治国之际,您在1月29日的讲话却令人大惑不解。)

Here is the text of the questions:
First, how to differentiate "Western values" from "Chinese values"? As everyone knows, it was only after it crossed the seas that the specter of Communism, which haunted Europe over the preceding two centuries, could give birth to the Chinese Communist Party. Our current Constitution stipulates we must adhere to Marxism, that we must carry forward the teachings of Internationalism, Communism, dialectical materialism, and historical materialism, and all these originated in the West and have influenced China. There are countless examples where the East has learned from the West. Respectfully  Minister Yuan, may I request that you clearly delineate the line between "Western values" and "Chinese values?" 
Second, how to differentiate between "attacking or defaming the Party's leaders or smearing socialism" and "reflecting on the crooked road that the Party has taken, and bringing to light dark realities?" There is no governing political party that would dare to claim that it has never committed and will never commit mistakes. There is no society, regardless of whether it goes by the name "socialist" or "capitalist," that would dare to claim that it is a society without any dark side whatsoever. Respectfully Minister Yuan, may I request that you provide clear criteria for differentiating between "attacking" and "reflecting," "smearing" and "enlightening?" 
Third, how will the Ministry of Education that you lead carry out the principles of ruling the country in accordance with the Constitution and laws? If you yourself already have clear and easily understood answers to the two preceding questions, then I would ask that you make another speech at the appropriate time. If you yourself cannot answer those questions without equivocation, then I would ask that in the future you exercise discretion, because the Ministry of Education that you lead has implications for "the scientific and cultural level of the entire country" (Constitution Article 19), for "natural and social science undertakings," (Constitution Article 20), and for citizens' exercise of their "freedom to conduct scientific research, engage in literary and artistic endeavors, and other cultural activities."  (Constitution Article 47) When all is said and done, it implicates the rejuvenation of the Chinese people. If you are capricious in expounding on what can and cannot be done, if there is even the slightest lack of caution, there exists the possibility that the Constitution and laws may be violated. 
On February 1, 2015, the website of the Communist Youth League published an article by one of its commentators entitled "Shen Kui Knew the Answers to His Three Questions Before He Asked Them" (“沈岿三问”是明知故问). Some excerpts:
In recent days, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren has become a hot topic on private media. The reason is that an article entitled "Beijing University Professor Shen Kui's Three Questions to Minister Yuan" has been spreading far and wide, and quite a few people have joined in the troublemaking. After reading the essay we can put aside for the moment who asked and who was being asked, and just look at these three questions, which are entirely an exercise in empty rhetoric.
If you know the answers, why would you ask the questions? The simple answer is because you harbor evil intent.
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The three bottom lines are simply politics, law, and ethics. The four requirements are, to put it plainly, simply mandating support for the Party's leadership and the socialist path. As for the standing of these requirements, we believe that every country has its basic bottom lines. To engage in in-depth question of of these is like engaging in in-depth questioning as to why the American President must oppose terrorism, or why British people must pledge loyalty to the Queen.
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Posing these questions is feigning ignorance. For example, how to differentiate Wester values and Chinese values, this is obviously a case of "If you try to reason with him he will play word games with you." This is not a discussion based on good intent, much less an academic exploration. This is digging, negating, and challenging.
As for problems in the area of ideology, the fact that we are seeing viewpoints such as the "three questions" popping up on private media only goes to show that we must increase our efforts on, and get a better grasp of, ideological issues. Discussion of the bottom lines will not be tolerated. 
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On February 2, 2015, the website of the Communist Youth League published another article by one of its commentators entitled "Whose Ulterior Motives Lie Beneath 'Shen Kui's Three Questions'" (“沈岿三问”项庄舞剑意在谁). Some excerpts:
No one could have imagined that the "Three Questions" could have been circulated so widely. This would be unthinkable in any other country. For example, in America, which supposedly has the most freedom of expression, it is impossible that you would ever see anyone pose a question like "How much would the quality of the country's citizenry be improved if we expelled ten million black people." That would be a violation of the Constitution, and would trip over a bottom line.
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Rejecting Western values and promoting China's values does not mean being anti-foreign, much less restricting academia. We have always welcomed and embraced advanced culture and technology from the West. Everyone can see how we've comported ourselves during the last 30 years of opening up. University ideology work is not about avoiding what is foreign, it is about not promoting indiscriminate rote mimicry and not rejecting China's values and China's path.
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Currently, there are certain classrooms where you can find theories about Western constitutional universality, historical nihilism, and the falablity of the leadership. Certain teachers forget where they come from, belittle the Chinese people, place Western universal values on a pedestal, and deny and tear down the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This has already gone beyond what could be considered academic discourse. This is illegal and unconstitutional, and will no longer be tolerated.
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If universities have problems, then the nation will have problems. We respect academic freedom, but academic freedom is not some basket into which you can throw any kind of thing or motivation. In every country the first and foremost requirement for teachers is ideological quality.
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A good teacher should be an active disseminator of the common ideal of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Chinese dream of the great resurgence of the Chinese people. Not the opposite. 
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These screenshots were taken on February 2, and show that Baidu was censoring search results for "Shen Kui Yuan Guiren," (沈岿 袁贵仁), but not for "Shen Kui" or "Yuan Guiren."

These screenshots were taken the same day, and show that Qihoo had blacklisted search results for Shen Kui Yuan Guiren."