China tells foreign law professors to prove they will obey Xi Jinping

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China appears to be requiring foreign law professors to submit their syllabuses to ensure they are following a doctrine President Xi Jinping has been pressing across the nation’s society to cement his control.

James Zimmerman, a media lawyer with law firm Perkins Coie, posted a document on Twitter that he said law professors at a university in Beijing were required to fill out and submit to superiors before classes started.

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The document’s “General Objectives” is filled out for the educators, saying: “Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, this course places a focus on every aspect of students’ morality education.”

It said that students will “acquire knowledge and skills,” adding: “Besides, students will understand and practice the core values of Chinese socialism, and learn to combine personal fulfillment with social and national development.”

Zimmerman confirmed to Bloomberg News that he posted the document, saying he got it from a foreign law professor in China. He declined to provide more information about its origins.

He said the syllabus requirement for the educators was first rumored in the fall, and “the template I posted was recently circulated to the professors.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the requirement also was being applied to professors in other subjects.

Perkins Coie, which is headquartered in Seattle, also provides legal services to Bloomberg LP.

The document underscores how Xi has curtailed academic freedom over his decade in power — and how the problem will likely be exacerbated after he is named president for another five years at the annual National People’s Congress meeting starting Sunday.

Xi Thought is an esoteric concept the ruling Communist Party wrote into its five-year development blueprint in 2020. People including diplomats, executives and writers face pressure to incorporate the broad, often fuzzy tenets of the ideology into their policies and work.

The drive to intensify the study of Xi Thought even reaches China’s youngsters. In 2021, the party said children in primary school and the first two years of secondary school should attend one class per week that’s based on training materials derived from the ideology.

The project has been central to Xi’s effort to quiet opposition and elevate his political standing to the level of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic whose likeness appears over Tiananmen Square and is printed on the currency.

The Chinese government recently tightened rules covering legal education and research. Among the points addressed in a document published by the official Xinhua News Agency on February 26 were requirements for law schools to use Xi Jinping Thought to guide studies.

In particular, teachers and students were asked to “resolutely oppose and boycott wrongful Western ideas including ‘constitutionalism,’ ‘separation of powers’ and ‘judicial independence.’”

That reiterated demands the government made in 2013, when the party circulated a list of “seven taboo topics that are banned from discussion in classrooms, including freedom of speech, universal values, civil rights and past mistakes the party made.

Chinese lecturers at some universities are required to submit a list of textbooks they use for teaching. In certain instances, they are asked to swap a textbook imported from abroad for a domestically published one, or go through an approval process if there was no alternative.

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