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China Replaces President Of University That Led Protests

August 23, 1989

BEIJING (AP) _ The Education Commission on Wednesday replaced the liberal president of Beijing University, whose students helped lead the spring pro-democracy movement that was suppressed in June.

Ding Shisun was the second university president replaced since the protests, and more replacements were anticipated as the ruling Communist Party moves to prevent renewed campus unrest.

The official Xinhua News Agency portrayed the move as non-political and said the 62-year-old Ding had asked as early as February to leave for ″health and other reasons.″ It said he had been given a four-year term when appointed in 1984.

However, school officials within the past month said repeatedly that Ding had no plans to leave. When contacted by telephone as recently as Monday, they said Ding remained president and made no mention of a planned change.

Ding was replaced by 56-year-old Wu Shuqing. Wu had been vice president of People’s University, whose students also took part in the protests. Xinhua said He Dongchang, vice minister of the Education Commission, appointed Wu at a ceremony Wednesday.

He urged the school to keep a socialist outlook and train students to be both ″red and expert″ in their fields.

Students from Beijing University, considered China’s most prestigious school, took the lead in the spring protests as they have in past political movements.

After the April 15 death of ousted party leader Hu Yaobang, hundreds of posters were put up on the Beijing University campus mourning him and subtly criticizing the government.

Ding maintained a low profile during the protests, speaking out only to urge a speedy solution to the problem. But he also did nothing to stop his students, while other schools pressured students to stop protesting and some even locked campus gates before marches.

The government has ordered concentrated political study for teachers and students at all universities. Special measures have been taken to keep Beijing University under control.

Its freshman class has been cut from the planned 2,100 students to 600, and the students have been ordered to take a year of military training before beginning degree work. Six social science departments, including history, philosophy and sociology, are not being allowed to admit any new students, sources have said.

Other colleges are starting classes this month to make up for time lost in the spring, but Beijing University has been ordered to delay reopening until Oct. 14. The measure was apparently to ensure its students do nothing to disrupt the Oct. 1 celebration of the 40th anniversary of Communist rule.

The nation’s total college freshman class has been cut by 30,000 students, to 610,000.

In late June, authorities in Shenzhen, a special export zone near Hong Kong, fired the president of Shenzhen University for supporting the democracy movement. The central province of Anhui fired the deputy director of its education commission, also for allegedly encouraging the protests.

Other academics have been criticized harshly and some have been jailed.

Also Wednesday, a leading member of the Chinese-American community, Anna Chennault, met with Chinese Vice President Wang Zhen but refused to disclose what they discussed.

She said upon returning to the United States she would report to President Bush.

Mrs. Chennault is the widow of Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, who founded the World War II ″Flying Tiger″ force that backed the Nationalist Chinese in their fight against Japan.

Update hourly