Translation: Prof. Xiao Han on Academic Freedom

Xiao Han, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, had his classes cancelled by the university, and no explanation was given. He has written an open letter to the dean of the Law Department, which ChinaGeeks has translated:

During these past six years, I have not published very many academic papers and my bonus is normally only around 2,000 yuan a year and I am perfectly content with that. I have my own attitude toward academics. Considering my age [Ed: 40] and academic standing, I am unable to and shouldn’t try to be prolific. If I were to underperform, I wouldn’t need anyone to point it out to me. I’d be the first person to criticize myself. I’m especially opposed to people who waste paper and readers’ time just for the sake of promotions and bonuses. I once wrote on a performance evaluation: “Universities aren’t hen houses. You feed a hen and it should lay eggs. That’s not what academics is about.” I won’t change my opinion on this.

You’ve also expressed dissatisfaction with my lack of participation in campus meetings. I understand why you’re upset, but I will continue avoiding these events because they are just bureaucratic meetings. Rarely do we have academic discussions and I think it is not worth the risk of going to a bureaucratic meeting in hopes of talking of something of value. I won’t attend these events as if I’m buying lottery tickets. I’ll start going the day we’ve gotten rid of the administrative nonsense and they become more like normal academic conferences.

Looking back on my six years at this university, I don’t believe that I have ever done anything that went against the principles of academia or education, nor have I abused academic freedoms. I truly cannot understand what reason you could possibly have for canceling my classes. Dean Xue, could you please follow the proper academic procedures and inform me why my courses have been canceled? Why are you infringing on my rights as a professor to teach and those of my students to take my courses?

Read more on Xiao Han, including a speech he gave his students called “The Last Class: How Do We Live Our Lives?” about the June 4, 1989 military crackdown.


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