The party’s system for influencing students depends in large part on their teachers and professors. In a speech at a Beijing seminar attended by teachers from across the country in March, Xi called on educators to instill patriotism in the country’s youth and reject “wrong ideas and ideology.” He also emphasized that teachers themselves “should have strict self-discipline, be consistent in class and out of class, online and offline, should consciously carry forward the main melody and actively convey positive energy.”
In recent months, a number of teachers have faced dismissal, detention, and other penalties after falling short of these expectations. On March 25, the Financial Times reported that prominent constitutional law professor Xu Zhangrun had been barred from teaching at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He had written numerous essays that sharply and eloquently criticized the top leadership’s decisions, often drawing on ancient Chinese philosophy, literature, and political theory to make his arguments. Xu was subsequently stripped of his other positions and teaching responsibilities. On April 8, scholar Yu Jianrong, known for his research on China’s peasants, had his Sina Weibo microblogging account, which had 7.2 million followers, silenced such that he could no longer post comments, only read others’ messages.
In two other cases, educators have faced jail time for sharing information about the persecuted Falun Gong spiritual group in their private capacities. In January, Zeng Hao, a business professor at Tianhe College in Guangdong Province, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison after posting images related to Falun Gong on Tencent’s QQ messaging platform. On April 15, Amnesty International issued an urgent action for high school chemistry teacher Chen Yan, who is expected to face trial for handing out a calendar with information about Falun Gong to someone on a Beijing street.