BEIJING, JAN. 21 -- The top Chinese Communist Party official at prestigious Beijing University has been removed for failing to take a strong enough stance against students who participated in the 1989 democracy movement, Chinese sources said today.
Beijing University historically has been at the forefront of modern China's political trends, and its students spearheaded the demonstrations that were crushed by the army in June 1989. Some of the democracy activists expected to be put on trial in the next few weeks, such as student leader Wang Dan, are from Beijing University.
The sources said that party secretary Wang Xuezhen has been replaced by a deputy secretary from the Beijing municipal party committee, effectively giving the hard-line municipal party authorities direct control over the university.
While the president of the university administers the school's daily operations, the party secretary supervises ideology and propaganda, a role that has become highly important since hard-liners became prominent in the Chinese leadership in 1989.
After the army crackdown, university president Ding Shisun was forced to resign because he was considered too sympathetic with the students. At that time, authorities also wanted to replace party secretary Wang Xuezhen, but were afraid his removal then would look too much like a purge, sources said.
According to some sources, this is the first time that a local party organization will have such direct supervision over a key university. The sources said the university's new party secretary, Wang Jiaqin, will keep her position at the municipal party committee. She is considered more conservative than Wang Xuezhen.
The personnel changes have not yet been made public.
Wang Xuezhen, an alternate member of the powerful party Central Committee, had been party secretary since 1983. Even before the 1989 demonstrations, he had the reputation of protecting students who were involved in protests. During the demonstrations, he earned students' praise for a speech defending their interests.
But now, 19 months after the crackdown, party authorities are accusing Wang of failing to bring the university under tight ideological control. Investigations of students and teachers involved in the protests have not been completed.
Meanwhile, minor anti-government protests are still occurring. Some of the freshmen who received one year of military training and political indoctrination burned their military uniforms after returning to campus. On New Year's Day, some areas of the campus were littered with small bottles that were broken, an act of defiance aimed at senior leader Deng Xiaoping, whose name rhymes with the Chinese words for "small bottle."