Misplaced honour

October 15, 2004

I am surprised by the excuses used by Nottingham University to justify the award of an honorary degree to Chinese minister Chen Zhili, who is now facing charges of torture and crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the brutal persecution of the Falun Gong ("Chinese links land Notts in hot water", October 1).

Chen never had a "distinguished career as a research scientist" as Nottingham claims; her research responsibility has never reached beyond "associate research fellow". Chen is even less "an outstanding education minister". She oversaw the commercialisation of the Chinese education system, which is now plagued by corruption.

When appointed Education Minister, the number of endorsement votes she received from National People's Congress delegates in 1998 was the lowest of all Chinese ministers. Her appointment, opposed by many Chinese universities, was believed to be due to her close personal relationship with Jiang Zemin, the former Communist Party General Secretary.

It is disappointing that such a disastrous politician has been honoured by Nottingham. It is also ironic that she was awarded the honorary doctor of laws degree while she stands accused of trampling on human rights.

Yajian Li
Newcastle upon Tyne University

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