HONG KONG—In April 2007, Mu Jia (Carsten A. Holz), Associate Professor of Political Science in the Social Science Division of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, published an article entitled “Have All the Scholars in China Been Bought?” In the paper, he expressed his views on Chinese scholars, including how they habitually please the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), consciously or unconsciously, and what consequences they face, under the CCP's control of Chinese society, if they fail to please the CCP.
He spoke of “incentives” to conform, self-censorship, some of the very personal pressures brought to bear on China researchers by the CCP and the case of an Associate Professor from a Hong Kong University–a U.S. citizen–who was jailed in China on charges of “endangering state security.”
Fear of Not Being Allowed to Return to China
Speaking about his article, Mu Jia, who came to Hong Kong in 1995, says that he only wants to point out the unique situation in China.
“If I were in the United States, I also might have stresses and constraints, but [in the U.S.] people can freely express their opinions, and you can make choices on what direction you want to do your research in. In China or Hong Kong, however, if you go too far in one direction, you will be in fear of your co-workers [reporting on you] and you wonder if you will be allowed to return to mainland China. Political matters affect the independence of science in every county, but the problem [in China] is that the Chinese political system makes it far more serious.”
Textbooks in China Hide Facts about the CCP from the Public
Regarding criticism of his article, Mu Jia says, “I have never directly received critical opinions of my article, but I read criticism through e-mails from my friends. The most trenchant criticism was about my comments on the textbooks in mainland China. I was critical of those textbooks which spoke about the government and the CCP, and my critics queried what I was saying. I should have said more clearly that my point is not whether these textbooks mentioned the government and the CCP, but that what was mentioned in these textbooks were not facts and were useless for real life. For example, if I want to become a delegate to the National People's Congress (NPC), where should I put my name? As a Chinese citizen, if I want to run as a delegate of the NPC, what will happen to me next? Policemen may come to my home! I may be arrested if I don't give up the idea of being elected. I don't know what will happen to me.
“Reading news reports, one can see that there are people running for the NPC according to the rules and using their real names. However, in reality, people are controlled by the CCP, an example of which is the nomination of NPC candidates. Those textbooks were not clear on what the Chinese political system means to the common people. This is my comment.”
Looking back at the writing experience, Mu Jia says that he constantly wanted to make public what was in his mind. It took him several years to write the article, and his aspirations are now fulfilled. He describes the article as a single complete work, and he will hereafter concentrate on his research work.
Reminded of Nazism
Mu Jia, who grew up in Germany and whose German name is Carsten A. Holtz, notes that all the schoolteachers of the 1970s had come out of the experience of living in the days governed by Nazism, when all that teachers cared about was whether their students knew the Nazi system. He was reminded of this while he was writing his article, and so as a person educated under academic freedom, he felt the need to speak in spite of the constraints.
“The important thing is what I should do in my career and I will do the things that I think are right. The education I got from middle school is asking me to speak out,” says Mu Jia.
“It took me a couple of years to finish this article. There were only some parts of thoughts in my mind at first; the main idea was formed gradually. I wrote down any thoughts I had in my mind right away and I finally finished the article last summer between August and September. I was not in a hurry; I only wanted to write down all of what I wanted to write at one time. Then I would continue with my economics study.”
Revised 5 Times
During the writing procedure, Mu Jian found out that it was not easy to express his opinion. He was not satisfied with his article until he did revisions five times.
“Regarding lots of opinions I spoke about in the article, I felt the study we did on this might be wrong. Because of this, I rewrote my article four or five times and I think this article finally expresses my feelings and opinions,” he says.
Worth Expressing My Opinion Even If It Means Not Returning to China
“Regarding the vast environment of China that I spoke about in the article, some people might think I am too extreme and crazy and some people might think I am weird, but I think I have accurately expressed their feelings from the reactions I have gotten so far. I am not afraid that people will think negatively about me. If someone criticizes me and thinks I digress from the subject, I will respond. Since I finished writing that article, I have always been thinking about one thing: what will happen if I apply to go back to China to do research next time. But I think it is not my concern if this article should be published or if it should get any reactions. This is an academic article; I was only writing about scholars and China, and I was criticizing the China Study scholars. I knew that I had to write this article sooner or later, and now that I have finished it, I don't care about the consequences anymore.”
“I often go to China, I once lived there, and I am sure I will want to go back again, but if I can't go there anymore because of this article that I wrote, it is still worth it. When I decided to reveal the problems I mentioned in the article and express my opinions, there was no longer any choice between whether I wanted to go back to China or whether I should publish this article.”
Carsten A. Holz's article “Have China Scholars All Been Bought?” can be found on the following links: