Professor's tart reply sets off controversy

Updated: 2011-11-19 09:29

By Guo Nei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Debate is raging over whether a Peking University professor who launched a foul-mouthed tirade against a journalist should resign - especially among the students of the university.

Kong Qingdong, a professor of Chinese literature, has been at the center of the storm since writing in his micro blog that he used three obscenities in response to a call from a Southern People Weekly reporter re

Professor's tart reply sets off controversy

questing an interview .

"I opened with a simple greeting and introduced myself, and then he attacked me, using the foul words," said Cao Linhua, the journalist, said about the incident on Nov 7. "He said he would never grant an interview to a traitorous magazine."

Kong is a long-time critic of the publication because, to his mind, it has maligned the nation by reporting too much about the dark side of society.

Kong, an associate professor at Peking University's department of Chinese language and literature and a descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, did not respond to several phone calls for comment.

"He is famous for being a Peking University professor and for his cynical words, but I didn't see any contribution from him to academic performance these years," a 23-year-old graduate student, who has been in Kong's department for seven years, said on condition of anonymity.

"He is kind of annoying," he added.

The student is part of a chorus of voices calling for Kong to resign.

Kong also has supporters. His friend Zhou Yijun, better known as A Yi, a former part-time CCTV anchorman and now a journalism professor at Peking University, said in his micro blog that Cao did not mean to be offensive and was merely curious about Kong's personal life and work. To write about Kong, Cao interviewed several people, including A Yi, before he contacted Kong.

A Yi also said that Kong rarely offends others and is a helpful and amiable person.

In an article titled No matter what, Peking University must keep Kong Qingdong that was posted on Nov 14 on the university's online bulletin board, the author pen-named Shume wrote that the professor should be allowed to stay as a sign of the college's tolerance.

Most people who commented on the post agreed, some suggesting that the public should be more tolerant to protect professors' free speech in higher institutes.

"It is his right to express his opinion," said Wang Yu, a 25-year-old former university student who works at the Tsinghua International School and formerly attended Kong's lectures at school. "Kong is a human being, and human beings have emotions."

Zhang Ming, a professor of political science at Renmin University of China, wrote on his micro blog that although he does not condone Kong's behavior, he sees no reason why it should affect his job at the university.

When interviewed by the Mirror Evening News on Wednesday, Wang Yu, a director of the human resources department of Peking University, said they had not received any application or request to fire Kong.

The school is very prudent when it comes to the firing of a teacher, the officer said. There have been no dismissals because of obscene language, and there will not be, Wang added.

Zheng Jinran contributed to this story.