Fudan University Party Secretary's Murder Rocks Chinese Academia

Fellow academics say academics are under huge pressure to win state funding, and those who fail are fired.
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Fudan University Party Secretary's Murder Rocks Chinese Academia Wang Yongzhen, Communist Party secretary at Fudan University's School of Mathematical Sciences, lectures on Red Ideology with the CCP Working Committee of Kongjiang Road Street, May 18, 2021.
Fudan University's School of Mathematical Sciences

Police in Shanghai are investigating the murder of a ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official at the city's prestigious Fudan University, as he was firing a colleague in the School of Mathematics.

Fudan's School of Mathematical Sciences confirmed on Tuesday the death of Wang Yongzhen, who was party secretary for the School, official media reported.

Shanghai police said they had arrested a lecturer surnamed Jiang for allegedly stabbing a colleague, surnamed Wang, who died at the scene.

The School posted condolences for Wang on its website, saying his death was a great loss to the school, with the website using black and white color scheme in mourning, the Global Times newspaper reported.

The university said it would fully cooperate with the police investigation.

The victim, Wang Yongzhen, 49, was stabbed on the afternoon of June 7, as he was in the process of firing lecturer Jiang Wenhua from his teaching post, reports said.

Huge pressure on academics

A science professor who gave only the surname Luo blamed a recruitment policy among top Chinese universities, which try to attract overseas academics with jobs back home in China, but then fire them if they don't attract enough research funding.

"These universities, especially the lower-ranking ones in the western part of the country, will hire new PhDs as adjuncts on the basis that they will be demoted to lecturer if they fail to get promoted to associate professor level within four years," Luo said.

"[Some schools] will fire them if they can't attract National Science Foundation funding within six years of starting in post, because that effectively means they won't make associate professor," he said.

A lecturer surnamed Liu said the policies were putting huge pressure on academic staff, which in turn encourages plagiarism.

"It's all about how many journal articles you can get published, and how much of your research is a national priority topic," Liu said.

"But in China, scholar without sufficient clout or resources find it very hard to get published or to attract funding," he said. "It's pretty impossible to achieve without those things."

Repeated calls to the Fudan University propaganda department and CCP organization department rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

Hungary campus protest

An official who answered the phone at the personnel department in the Shanghai municipal education bureau declined to comment when contacted by RFA.

"I can't answer that," the official said. "[Wang] wasn't appointed by officials here; he is under the management of the school party committee."

The murder came after protesters in the Hungarian capital took to the streets dressed as Winnie the Pooh -- a satirical reference to CCP general secretary Xi Jinping -- in protest over plans to open a branch of Fudan University in Budapest.

Holding banners and chanting "No to Fudan!", the protesters took to the streets after the Hungarian government announced plans for the Fudan campus, which is slated to provide 12,000 dorm beds and 5,800 social housing places for students.

"This will pave the way for Fudan University [to set up shop in Hungary]," protest organizer Zhan Bai told RFA. "We think this is totally unacceptable."

Public opinion polls have shown that around two-thirds of Hungarians oppose the idea, not least because it will be funded by the Hungarian government with loans provided by China, using Chinese designers, contractors and suppliers.

Budapest mayor Karacsony Gergely, who looks set to challenge prime minister Viktor Orban in next year's general election, has spoken out against the Fudan proposals, reminding Hungarians that the students who turned out in Tiananmen Square in the spring and summer of 1989 were standing up against a dictatorial regime.

"This Fudan plan shows the moral bankruptcy of the ruling party, and we will continue to take action ... to stop it," he told protesters in Budapest on June 5.

The Orban government and Fudan University signed a strategic cooperation agreement on April 27, including plans for a Fudan branch campus in Budapest to start construction work in 2024.

The Budapest City Council opposes the central government’s plan because of China's human rights record, and also the huge U.S.$1.9 billion price tag, which exceeds Hungary's total annual higher education budget.

Reported by Xiaoshan Huang, Chingman and Cai Ling for RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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Philip Nash
Jun 12, 2021 06:55 PM

China has taken the approach of US universities in assessing the merit of academics. In the USA an Assistant Professor will be fired after 6 years if you do not publish enough journal articles and bring in enough funding for your research. I have spent many years on tenure committees discussing individual cases and the debate can be quite lively.