The executive committee of the national legislature dismissed Zhou Ji on Saturday at the end of a routine meeting and promoted a deputy education minister to replace him. In announcing the change late Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency gave no reason but said Zhou “will get a new appointment.”
At 63, the American-educated Zhou was two years short of retirement and thus an unlikely candidate for a job change.
The surprise move was the latest shift to roil a public education system that Chinese traditionally idealize as a fair pathway to advancement but that has been filled with problems — from chronic underfunding at primary and secondary levels to poor quality higher education.
Though many of the ills predate Zhou’s rise to education minister six years ago, he has come to be associated with them. When the legislature, the National People’s Congress, met last year to vote in a new Cabinet for a five-year term, Zhou received the highest number of negative votes of any minister.
See a Xinhua article which references the dismissal in passing.
Update: The New York Times has more on Zhou Ji’s dismissal and corruption in education:
When all 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress voted in March to retain or replace cabinet-level ministers, Mr. Zhou drew 384 no votes — last place among the 72 ministers who were considered.
But there had been no hint that the government was considering replacing Mr. Zhou. Indeed, he met two weeks ago with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, during Mr. Putin’s visit to Beijing, a strong indication that he was in good standing with China’s top leaders.
Late Monday, the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences stated on its Web site that Mr. Zhou would join the organization, further indicating his departure was unrelated to corruption charges. Still, columnists in some Chinese newspapers suggested Monday that Mr. Zhou’s departure offered the government a chance to address a broader corruption of the academic process, in which excellence and the search for truth had been subverted by politics and the search for a fast buck.
Both basic and higher education have been hindered by corruption, from the selling of degrees and stellar test scores by administrators to cheating among students.