University professors and administrators in China have been given clear instructions recently about precisely what topics of discussion are off-limits in the classroom.
The “7 Don’t Speaks,” as they have been termed, include any discussion of “universal values, freedom of the press, civil society, civil rights, the Communist Party’s historical errors, crony elites, and judicial independence,” according to a widely forwarded post on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China.
The Post cited Wang Jiangsong, a professor of philosophy at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing, who told the paper that he was aware of university leadership receiving notice of the gag order.
He told the Post: “The purpose of this notice is just to tell you as a teacher to be a bit careful about what you’re saying.”
Yao Jianfu, a former official and veteran researcher,had previously told Deutsche Welle that he had been informed of the Party’s “7 Don’t Speaks” by an internal source. The seven items were identical to those circulated on Weibo and referred to by Wang.
Yao noted that the appearance of the order comes at the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party when it took power in China. Yao told Deutsche Welle that he suspects that Xi Jinping is clamping down on the space for civil society and free discourse while preparing for a large-scale Maoist celebration.
Yawei Liu, the director of the China Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, referred to the seven directives in a tweet, and added: “Such direct interference in professors’ academic freedom, such clear and specific restriction of what they can teach, this is a first in years. But if they cannot even talk about media freedom and civil rights, is it still a university?”