BEIJING – One of China’s top universities has urged students and teachers to “fight against” criticism of the ruling Communist Party, an influential party journal said, in the latest curbs on free expression.
The move by Peking University, which at one time was a bastion of free speech in China, underscores increasing anxiety of criticism among party leaders and is a sign of President Xi Jinping’s politically conservative agenda.
Curricula and speech at Chinese universities are tightly controlled by the government, though students at Peking University have at times pushed the limits, including during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were brutally suppressed by the army.
“In recent years, some people with ulterior motives have added fuel to the flames on the Internet . . . ultimately targeting the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system,” said an article in the journal Qiushi, which means “seeking truth” in Chinese.
Those actions “created a very large negative impact on public opinion on the Internet and social consensus,” the article, written by the university’s party committee, said.
The committee called on teachers and students to “take a firm stand and be unequivocal, and fight against speech and actions that touch upon the party’s and country’s principles and bottom lines in a timely, efficient and resolute manner.”
The university has in the past few years established a 24-hour system to monitor public opinion on the Internet and take early measures to control and reduce the effects of negative speech, the article said.
Xi’s administration, which took control in March 2013, has stepped up a crackdown on dissent, detaining and jailing activists, muzzling Internet critics and strengthening restrictions on journalists in what some rights groups call the worst suppression of free expression in recent years.
China on Saturday ordered journalists of both traditional and online media to learn “Marxist news values” and uphold the principles of news as prescribed by the party.
In October, Peking University leaders voted to end the contract of then professor Xia Yeliang, 53, who had drawn the ire of school officials for his blog posts calling for democratic reforms and rule of law in China.