Professors, Beware. A ‘Student Information Officer’ Might Be Watching.


Professor Carl Minzner was quoted in The New York Times on the uptick of “student information officers” being deployed in China. These student officers are engaged by the government to monitor the ideological views of their professors.

In a throwback to the Mao Zedong era, Chinese universities are deploying students as watchdogs against their teachers, part of a sweeping campaign by Mr. Xi to eliminate dissent and turn universities into party strongholds.

The use of student informers has surged under Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, with hundreds of universities now employing the practice, according to interviews with more than two dozen professors and students, as well as a review of public records.

“Everyone feels they are in danger,” said You Shengdong, a longtime economics professor at Xiamen University in eastern China who was fired last year after students reported him for criticizing one of Mr. Xi’s favorite propaganda slogans.

“How do we make progress,” Mr. You asked, “how can we produce inventions in this environment?”

Universities are posting advertisements recruiting students to spy on their teachers, with some aiming to have one in every classroom. It has created a chilling effect that some have compared to the ideological purification campaigns of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, in which radical students attacked Mao’s perceived enemies.

Carl Minzner, a professor of law at Fordham University in New York, said the rise of student informers was part of Mr. Xi’s efforts to make the party “a leading force in state and society alike.”

“Xi’s goal is to reintroduce that element of self-censorship so that people start to think twice about speaking,” he said. “When political orthodoxy takes over, that’s how the collective mind of society begins to close down.”

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