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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China: Outspoken scholar sacked, another on trial

December 24, 2009

SINGAPORE, Dec 23 ? An outspoken scholar from China?s top government
think-tank has been dismissed from his post, the latest academic
punished this year after speaking out against official policies.

Philosophy scholar Zhang Boshu, rare among Chinese intellectuals in
publicly criticising Beijing?s Tibet policy, said he was given marching
orders by his superiors at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Monday.

His employers said he had ?repeatedly violated work discipline? by being
absent from work for over a month and travelling overseas without
official permission, according to a copy of his dismissal notice, dated
Dec 15, which was seen by The Straits Times.

Zhang, 54, who had been an assistant researcher with the think-tank?s
Philosophy Institute for 18 years, now has three months to look for a
new job.

His dismissal comes on the eve of the trial of prominent dissident Liu
Xiaobo, slated to begin in Beijing today.

A writer and philosopher, Liu had helped draft Charter 08, a manifesto
calling for human rights, democracy and the ruling Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) to abandon monopoly rule and establish a multi-party system
of government.

Issued on Dec 10 last year, it was initially signed by 303 Chinese
intellectuals and activists. Some 10,000 people have since signed the
document circulated online.

Seized by police hours before the Charter was released on the Internet,
Liu has been charged with ?inciting subversion? and faces a possible
15-year jail sentence.

His case has drawn diplomatic protests from the United States and the
European Union which China has rebuffed.

Other signatories of the Charter have reported of being warned by the
authorities not to attend the trial.

At least two other scholars who signed the original document have been
removed or reassigned.

In March, law professor He Weifang was reassigned from the elite Beijing
University to a remote teaching post in the far western region of Xinjiang.

In May, social issues researcher Liu Junning was dismissed from a
Ministry of Culture institute.

Zhang, who had also signed the Charter, said he saw his dismissal coming.

?Over the past few years, my colleagues seem to have been thinking that
I bring them trouble,? he told The Straits Times in a phone interview

Zhang has written articles advocating political and constitutional
reform in China. He also previously published an article in Hong Kong
that was critical of the government?s actions in putting down the 1989
Tiananmen Square protests.

In April last year, following the worst riots in Tibet in decades, he
wrote an article arguing that Tibetans protested despite rapid economic
progress because of aspects of CCP rule there.

He added that Beijing?s ?demonising of the Dalai Lama is extremely
foolish?, and urged the government to conduct ?genuine negotiations?
with the exiled Tibetan leader.

?As a Chinese citizen, I naturally don?t want to see Tibet split off
from the household of our motherland...Forced compliance cannot produce
good results,? Zhang wrote in the article, which was circulated online.

Beijing, which blocked news on demonstrations across the Tibetan plateau
last year, says the unrest was orchestrated by the ?Dalai clique?, but
has since put more resources into both policing and socio- economic
policies there.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which comes under the charge of
the State Council, or China?s Cabinet, is home to many liberal-leaning
scholars who are sometimes critical of the government.

But few speak out publicly on the topics deemed most sensitive: Minority
policies, political reform, domestic politics, foreign policy and the
Tiananmen incident.

When contacted by phone yesterday, a staff member at the think-tank
declined to respond or verify any information relating to Zhang.

Contesting his dismissal, Zhang said in a statement posted online on
Monday that he had gone ahead with academic trips to Japan and the US
this year, though they had not been approved by his employer.

The institute, he said, thought his trips were political in nature and
overly sensitive.

He also made public two letters he had written to his superiors last
year, urging them to have a sense of conscience and reason.

He told The Straits Times: As a scholar, I feel we should have a sense
of social responsibility (to speak up). This is not just about me.
The Straits Times
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