A MOTTO of Peking University, one of China’s leading academic institutions, is “freedom of thought and an all-embracing attitude”. But in recent months it was not all-embracing enough to allow Xia Yeliang, an outspoken economics professor, to keep his job. Economics was not the subject on which Mr Xia was most forthright. He was a signatory of Charter 08, a petition drawn up in 2008 that called for sweeping political change, and he was known for his liberal political views. (Another signatory of the charter was Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2010 and is now serving an 11-year jail term for subversion.) Mr Xia was dismissed in October, accused of being a poor teacher. Unable to find another post in China, this month he took up a position as a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC.
Mr Xia’s case is part of a wider clampdown on free-thinking intellectuals. In December Zhang Xuezhong, a legal scholar, was dismissed from East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai after he published a series of articles defending the provisions of China’s constitution. State media called such views a Western plot to overthrow the party. Also in December, Chen Hongguo, an academic at the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi’an, resigned. The university had objected, among other things, to his holding salons that discussed texts by Western philosophers such as John Stuart Mill.