Authorities at a university in Shanghai have suspended a lecturer from teaching duties after he spoke out against favoritism and poor management in Chinese universities in the wake of the homicide of a ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official at Fudan University's School of Mathematics.
CCP officials who manage teaching staff at the East China University of Political Science and Law said they had suspended lecturer Bao Yinan, an associate professor in the School of International Law.
"One of our lecturers, Bao Yinan, recently made false statements on the internet, and the school immediately established a special working group to verify the situation," the teaching work division of the departmental party committee said in a statement posted online on June 11. "All of his teaching has been suspended for the time being."
"The school will deal with the matter in accordance with relevant regulations and laws," the statement said.
Bao's suspension came after he commented on social media regarding the stabbing death of Fudan official Wang Yongzhen as he was in the process of firing researcher Jiang Wenhua.
Police in Shanghai are investigating Wang's murder, and have confirmed they arrested a lecturer surnamed Jiang for allegedly stabbing a colleague, surnamed Wang, who died at the scene. Jiang reportedly told police that he had been "unjustly blamed and hugely mistreated" over a long period of time.
Poor treatment of researchers
Academics who spoke to RFA blamed a recruitment policy among top Chinese universities, which try to attract overseas-based academics with jobs back home in China, but then fire them if they don't attract enough research funding.
Bao, who took his PhD in Diplomatic Law at the University of Sussex in 2014 and an LLM in Public International Law at the University of Leicester in 2010, had commented that the murder came as "no surprise," given the poor treatment of early career researchers and academics by Chinese universities.
"In recent years, there has been a widespread phenomenon in Chinese colleges and universities," he said, hitting out at university and departmental managers who "have a habit of using administrative power to monopolize hiring processes and to grind down promising young academic staff."
"They seem to think it's fun to use their administrative position to intervene in ensuring these promising young staff get no classes to teach, or even preventing them from being hired ... and doing everything in their power to install their own students," Bao wrote.
He said the academics who take on management roles are often second-rate scholars themselves, and their failure to improve their scholarship was affecting the reputation of their schools.
Zhang Jianping, a rights activist based in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said Bao should never have faced retaliation for his comments.
"Mr Bao's views and remarks are a matter of personal opinion, and they weren't illegal," Zhang told RFA. "Now, the [university] is punishing him."
"Actually, this will have the opposite effect of making people suspect that there is a lot more to the Fudan University murder than meets the eye," he said. "The strangest thing is that they aren't letting people talk about it."
Guangdong-based rights lawyer Sui Muqing said he agreed with Bao's comments.
"I don't think there is any problem with his comment," Sui told RFA. "It was a pretty run-of-the-mill comment, and yet they are silencing him."
Freedom of speech fears
"It really does show how bad the current environment is in China for freedom of speech right now," he said. "If lecturers aren't even allowed to express opinions on this sort of thing, it really doesn't bode well for the future development of China's universities."
"I think everyone can see that there are some huge problems in higher education right now."
Beijing-based dissident Zha Jianguo said there should be some lessons to be learned from the homicide case, but that public debate should be allowed.
"Regardless of the conclusions people reach on the matter, if we aren't talking about rumor or slander, then people should be allowed freedom of speech as set down in law," Zha said.
"It is wrong to suppress discussion that blames issues at the university, or that diverges from the official view," he said.
Calls to the principal's office at the East China University of Political Science and Law rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.