An American graduate student attacked by the Chinese government for reporting on Chinese abortion policy in a Taiwan magazine has been expelled from his doctoral program at Stanford University despite his insistence that he was only telling the truth.
Steven Mosher, 34, an anthropologist now living in Taiwan, was removed from the program yesterday after two years of controversy involving a southern Chinese village, the U.S. Embassy in Peking and several American scholars who decried Mosher's methods but did not challenge the results of his research.
A statement explaining the unanimous vote of the university's anthropology faculty said the California-born Mosher had an "excellent academic record." It did not give a specific reason for the dismissal, but department Chairman Clifford R. Barnett later said Mosher had been terminated for "behavior inappropriate for an anthropologist." He said Stanford had not been pressured by China.
Scholars familiar with American research in China consider Mosher's case unique and unprecedented. He was one of the first scholars to receive permission to study a Chinese village, but subsequently found the Chinese government attacking his research and barring similar projects by other American anthropologists.
Some scholars at first thought the controversy might sharply curtail research in China by American social scientists, but so far that has not occurred.
In a telephone interview, Mosher said today that he would appeal his dismissal under university procedures all the way up to Stanford President Donald Kennedy if necessary and might take legal action.
He blamed the faculty's action on false charges from the Chinese government and from his former wife, Maggie So, now living in Peking. He said she had told him "I will ruin you" if he went through with a divorce.
The anthropology faculty declined to make public their 47-page report on Mosher, the result of a 16-month investigation by a three-member committee, because "it contains information that may be injurious to third parties," according to Stanford University spokesman Bob Beyers.
Mosher was allowed to see the report, but he said he could not release it without compromising future legal action against the university. He said the third party referred to is his ex-wife, and he said she refused to cooperate with the committee unless it kept her current whereabouts secret from Mosher.
Mosher, accompanied by his wife, conducted his research in 1979 and 1980 in a village of the Pearl River delta in China's Guangdong Province under the auspices of the Washington-based Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China. Bob Geyer, a committee staff member, said the organization had not been briefed on Stanford's action and would have no comment.
While in Guangdong, Mosher, who speaks the southern Chinese dialect known as Cantonese, was allowed to attend meetings at which women who had become pregnant in violation of government regulations were persuaded to have abortions.
Mosher called the sessions "classic brainwashing," including appeals to patriotism and statements that the babies' lives could not be "guaranteed" after birth. Some women forced to have abortions, he said, were in their eighth and ninth months of pregnancy, so determined were Chinese officials to limit the country's massive population growth.
After leaving China, Mosher wrote an article about what he had seen for the Sunday Times Chinese Weekly, a Taiwan equivalent of Time magazine. The article was accompanied by a picture taken by Mosher of an obviously pregnant woman being prepared for an abortion.
Chinese officials complained not only to officials in the U.S. Embassy but to a Stanford faculty member, Arthur Wolf, who happened to be visiting Peking. Mosher said his ex-wife had by then accepted a job in Peking and cooperated with the Chinese attack on him.
At first, Mosher said, he wondered if he had been wrong to put the article in a magazine in Taiwan, Peking's long-time adversary, but has since decided "I did what was right to do, I told the truth."