07/23/2014, 00.00
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Beijing's censorship and Macau universities

Lecturers are fired because they express pro-democracy views or mention the horror of Mao's reign. The politburo and the principle of "one country, two systems" are off-limits on university campuses.

Macau (AsiaNews) - The firing of a university professor and the suspension of another are further confirmation for students and academics that censorship is winning in the former Portuguese colony.

The most striking cases are those of Prof Eric Sautede, fired by Saint Joseph's University on 11 July, and that Prof Bill Chou Kwok-ping, suspended for 24 days at the University of Macau.

Sautede, a French national, is known for his political comments on the Macau Daily Times in defence of democracy and universal suffrage.

In his view, events last 4 June (Tiananmen anniversary) in the former Portuguese colony were a "landmark," if not a "turning point."

Last January, on Macau Business, he also criticised current Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who is waiting to be re-elected next month, calling him incompetent.

Last April, he taught a university seminar on the Chinese revolution, which highlighted all of Mao's mistakes and the consequences of his choices on the people.

Despite the warning to cancel the activity, he went ahead, inviting Frank Dikötter, an internationally renowned academic, and author of the book The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945-1957.

The rector of Saint Joseph University, Peter Stilwell, who fired Sautede, told the Portuguese-language newspaper Ponto Final that the situation had been becoming "increasingly delicate" for the university.

Even Bill Chou, a professor of political science at the University of Macau, is a strong supporter of universal suffrage for the territory, a right not even considered when the Portuguese colony was transferred to China.

In view of his ties with pro-democracy groups, he was accused in anonymous letters of trying to influence his students. The university gave him a 24-day suspension without salary and did not renew his contract, which ends in August.

According to some teachers, the pressure on universities and students has grown since last May, when massive demonstrations tried to block a bill that would have granted generous retirement packages to the outgoing chief executive and other top officials.

Many students who are demonstrating in favour of freedom of expression and calling for the rehiring of the two lecturers, remember that Wikileaks released a cable, dated 18 March 2008, from the US Consulate in Hong Kong that suggested the university has had to follow certain rules since its conception.

It cited the vice-rector of the Macau Inter-University Institute (the former name of the University of Saint Joseph) at the time, Ivo Carneiro, saying that when the institution was established, just prior to the handover, the "central government liaison office officials in Macau told the university administrators that only two subjects were 'not to be criticised' in university research and programmes: the 'one country, two systems' principle; and the Politburo of the Communist Party of China".

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