01/27/2017, 13.51
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Beijing defends the free exchange of goods, but not the free exchange of ideas

The website of the Unirule Institute of Economics, a supporter of the market economy and economic reforms, was shut down, officially because it lacks licenses to publish news. The institute's founder, Mao Yushi, has been criticised for his negative views of Mao Zedong and past top party officials.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Members of the Unirule Institute of Economics on 20 January posted a letter online noting that Chinese President “Xi Jinping has recently defended the free trade principal at Davos,” and “that free trade and free expression share inherent links.”

For the letter’s proponents, “Free trade means the free exchange of goods, and the free expression of ideas. As ideas are more valuable than goods, those who defend free trade will necessarily defend free expression”.

A few hours later, the official website of Unirule Institute of Economics, a 24-year-old think tank, and a handful of its social media accounts were also shut down. The letter too disappeared from the web.

The official reason for closing the website is that it published online news without the proper licenses.

The Unirule Institute of Economics is a Beijing-based think tank of liberal economists founded by Mao Yushi.

The 88-year-old won the Milton Friedman Prize for advancing liberty in 2012, but was banned from travelling to the United States to receive it.

Mao and his group support the market economy and have been calling for reforms in state enterprises, which have become inefficient, debt-ridden burdens kept afloat by the state.

The institute is also in favour of land reform to the benefit of peasants and against monopolies.

A few days before its site was taken offline, Mao openly criticised top judge Zhou Qiang for rejecting the “erroneous” Western ideas of judicial independence.

In the past, Mao drew the ire of many neo-Maoists for criticising the politics of Mao Zedong, the Great Helmsman, and past top Communist Party leaders.

What happened to Unirule suggests that Beijing wants to place intellectuals under its control, this according to Xiong Wei, a Beijing-based legal activist.

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