LSE urged to act over Peking critic’s expulsion

UCU protests over sacking of free speech champion

November 14, 2013

Academics have called on the London School of Economics to suspend joint courses with Peking University after the Chinese institution controversially expelled a prominent critic of the country’s government.

Xia Yeliang, a champion of free speech, was sacked last month and claimed he had been ousted because of his opposition to the Communist Party of China.

Peking said Professor Xia had been expelled for poor teaching.

In a letter to Craig Calhoun, the LSE’s director, the institution’s University and College Union branch writes that Peking’s explanation is “very dubious” in the context of Professor Xia’s “years of abuse and harassment by the Chinese state”.

The UCU calls on the LSE to deliver a “clear message” by suspending joint courses with Peking and offering Professor Xia a visiting scholarship.

After news of Professor Xia’s dismissal broke, an LSE spokesman said the institution was “attempting to establish the facts”. But in a statement issued on 7 November, it confirms that no action will be taken in response to the expulsion.

The university’s ethics committee discussed Professor Xia’s dismissal in a meeting on 31 October, where Peking’s “full explanation of the circumstances of the issue was considered alongside other views and information”, but “no conclusion was reached”, the spokesman said.

“Various forums exist in which LSE academics may discuss the issue further in future if they so wish,” he added.

The LSE runs two double master’s degrees with Peking, one in international affairs and the other in public administration and government.

It is not the only UK university to have links with the Chinese institution: Cardiff University runs a cancer research institute with it.

Colin Riordan, Cardiff’s vice-chancellor, said last month that Professor Xia’s expulsion was “a matter for Peking” and it would be inappropriate for Cardiff “to take a position or comment on the decision”.

The LSE has faced particular scrutiny over its foreign links since its relationship with the Gaddafi regime in Libya was the subject of a public outcry in 2011.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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