Peking University, often viewed as the Oxford or Harvard equivalent in China, plans to screen students for “radical thoughts.” A statement from the university announces that the program will target students for “consultations” who “frequently fail exams or encounter difficulties in their studies.”
However, categories of students that will be targeted for consultations, in areas other than academic preparedness, has prompted Chinese academics to raise concerns over academic freedom and to draw comparisons with the Cultural Revolution. The university would also screen “students with radical thoughts, psychological fragility, poverty, registration changes, eccentricity, Internet addiction, job difficulties, serious illnesses, and discipline violations.”
Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Beijing’s Renmin University was critical of the plan. “It is going too far for a respected university to openly control radical minds . . . Aren’t we going back to the days of the Cultural Revolution? This is hateful and terrible,” he told the South China Morning Post. Other academics have expressed a similar concern.
In an interview posted to Peking University’s website, Zha Jing, deputy director of the Office of Student Affairs, defended the plan. “We’ve noticed that some students having radical thoughts and bigoted character and encountering difficulties in interpersonal communication, social adaptiveness, and their studies,” he said.