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Concerns are recently growing over the future of higher education, academic freedom and liberal academics in China. At the end of the last month, during a gathering of university chiefs - including the country’s top institutions, Peking and Tsinghua universities - Education Minister Yuan Guiren urged a tightening of control over textbooks, accused of spreading ‘Western values’.
Chinese politicians believe that universities have a key role in ‘indoctrinating’ students. Recent announcements and official documents are aimed at tightening ideological control over higher education institutions and at encouraging the promotion of Marxism. Although no anti-western references can be found in the ‘ideological’ guidelines published by The Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE), there is a strong emphasis on the need to reintroduce/reinvent Marxism and to build self-confidence in the ‘Chinese Dream’. The MOE’s annual work plan for 2015 refers to such guidelines and it also contains other proposals for internationalisation, not only for sending Chinese students abroad, but for attracting international students into China.
The situation is sensitive in Hong Kong where, following the protests from September to December of the last year, pro-Beijing local officials are attempting to further squeeze independent media, courts and police. University professors and students are also affected by the tightened controls and they are trying to react urging for the need of formal investigations over government interference in academic affairs. 1000 scholars signed a petition asking the authorities to restrain themselves from compromising academic freedom in the city.
2015 Annual Work Plan (in Chinese): Chinese Ministry of Education