A Courageous Peking U. Professor Has This to Say About China's Crackdown on 'Western Values'

02/02/2015 03:32 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015

BEIJING -- Just when you start getting depressed about the way things are going in China, along comes Shen Kui (沈岿), an associate professor and vice dean at Peking University Law School, to show that at least some of China's thinking people are not going to take the government's policy of intellectual anesthesia in higher education lying down.

On Jan. 30, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren (袁贵仁) spoke at a conference on ideological and propaganda work in higher education, declaring that it was necessary "to strengthen control over the use of original-edition [i.e., not processed through some Party-controlled mechanism] Western materials. We must by no means allow materials that propagate Western values into our classrooms; it is absolutely forbidden for all kinds of speech that attacks and slanders the Party's leadership and blackens socialism to appear in university classrooms; it is absolutely forbidden to have all kinds of speech that violates the Constitution and the law spread in university classrooms; it is absolutely forbidden for teachers to complain and vent in the classroom and to transmit all kinds of harmful moods to students." (加强对西方原版教材的使用管理,绝不能让传播西方价值观念的教材进入我们的课堂;决不允许各种攻击诽谤党的领导、抹黑社会主义的言论在大学课堂出现;决不允许各种违反宪法和法律的言论在大学课堂蔓延;决不允许教师在课堂上发牢骚、泄怨气,把各种不良情绪传导给学生。)

In response, Prof. Shen posed three questions.

The first is especially subversive, since it reminds us of the obvious and exposes the whole anti-Western-values campaign for the ridiculous charade that it is:

How do we distinguish "Western values" from "Chinese values"? As everyone knows, the specter of Communism that hovered over Europe almost two centuries ago, after crossing mountains and seas to get to China, helped bring about the birth of the Chinese Communist Party; the Marxism that our current Constitution stipulates we must uphold, and the education in internationalism, communism, dialectical materialism, and historical materialism that the current Constitution stipulates we must undertake, are all from the West and have influenced China. There are countless examples of Western learning traveling east. Let me ask Minister Yuan, would it be possible for you to clearly delineate the line between "Western values" from "Chinese values"? (如何区分"西方价值"和"中国价值"?众所周知,近两个世纪前游荡在欧洲的共产主义幽灵"跨洋过海"来到中国后,才促成中国共产党的诞生;我国现行宪法规定必须坚持的马克思主义,必须进行的国际主义、共产主义、辩证唯物主义和历史唯物主义等的教育,也是源于西方,影响中国的。西学东渐的例子数不胜数,请教袁部长,是否可以请您清晰划出"西方价值"和"中国价值"的分界线?)

Here's his second question:

How do we distinguish "attacking and slandering the Party's leadership and blackening socialism" from "reflecting on the bends in the road in the Party's past and exposing dark facts"? No political party would dare to declare that it never did and never would make errors, and no society, whether socialist or capitalist, would dare to declare that it has no dark side. Let me ask Minister Yuan, would it be possible for you to clearly give us the standard for distinguishing between "attack" and "reflect", and between "blacken" and "expose darkness"? (如何区分"攻击诽谤党的领导、抹黑社会主义"和"反思党曾经走过的弯路、揭露黑暗现实"?没有任何政党,敢于宣布自己是从不会也永远不会犯错,也没有任何社会,无论是姓"社"还是姓"资",敢于宣称自己是没有任何黑暗面的社会。请教袁部长,是否可以请您清晰给出"攻击"与"反思"、"抹黑"与"揭露黑暗"的区别标准?)

And finally, the third question:

How should the Education Ministry that you lead implement the policy of governing the country according to the Constitution and the law? If you have a clear and understandable answer to the above two questions, please publish another speech in good time; if you still don't have a clear answer, then please henceforth be cautious in your words and actions, because the Education Ministry that you lead relates to "the scientific and cultural level of the people of the whole nation" (Constitution, Art. 19), "the development of the natural and social sciences" (Constitution, Art. 20), and the citizens' "freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural pursuits" (Constitution, Art. 47); in short, it relates to the renaissance of the Chinese people. If you casually talk about what can be done and what can't be done, then the least bit of incaution could mean a violation of the Constitution or the law. (如何让您领导的教育部贯彻执行依宪治国、依法治国的方针?如果您本人对以上两个问题已有明显易懂的答案,还请您适时发表另外一次讲话;如果您本人尚无明确答案,还请您以后谨言慎行,因为您所领导的教育部,关系到"全国人民的科学文化水平"(宪法第19条),关系到"自然科学和社会科学事业"(宪法第20条),关系到公民进行"科学研究、文学艺术创作和其他文化活动的自由"(宪法第47条),归根结底,关系到中华民族的复兴。您如果轻言什么可为、什么不可为,稍有不慎,就会存在触犯宪法、法律的可能性。)

Good stuff.