Top university leader removed in anti-graft campaign

The president of Fudan University in Shanghai, one of China’s most prestigious institutions, has resigned in the wake of a government investigation into corruption. Yang Yuliang is the most high profile university head to be removed after President Xi Jinping pledged late last year to go after major officials – ‘tigers’ – and not just ‘flies’ or minor officials.

Last year official media reported that around a dozen top university officials, including some university presidents, were being investigated.

In an unusual announcement at the highest levels on 4 November, the State Council – roughly equivalent to cabinet – said Yang was being replaced by the president of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Xu Ningsheng.

University president appointments are not normally announced by bodies such as the State Council.

Fudan University said Yang, 62, had retired in the normal manner. But academics in Shanghai pointed out that he only started his second term as the university’s president at the beginning of this year. Fudan’s previous president retired at 67.

Yang’s departure comes in the wake of a damning report by the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – CCDI – which has been charged with rooting out graft. A CCDI team visited the university earlier this year.

The team found that the university had mismanaged research funds and had failed to oversee other areas.

Management of research funds was found to be “chaotic”, according to the commission inspection report released last July. But at that time no specific officials were held to account.


Last month official sources revealed that professors in charge of some two dozen research projects at Fudan would be punished for breaking rules governing research funding applications.

Reports suggested that the professors had made multiple, repeated applications for funds on research projects that were carried out between 2008 and 2013.

In some cases, applications were for funding for projects that had already received funds from other sources. The professors would be charged under rules governing the management of science research funds, Shanghai Daily newspaper reported.

Fudan University also has 10 affiliated teaching hospitals with substantial research budgets. The university said that it had strengthened supervision of the hospitals, which had complicated ownership structures and made management of the hospitals difficult.

Sources said Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng and the Ministry of Education had previously supported Yang, despite the earlier CCDI reports. Fudan University said it was taking measures to clear up problems revealed by the inspections and put in place stricter supervision to avoid a recurrence.

Property issues

However in late October Zhang Wenyue, head of the second CCDI inspection team, revealed that there were continuing problems, including “using houses to gain personal profit [that] has not been thoroughly corrected”.

The issue of land corruption is much more difficult to paper over and contain locally than research fund embezzlement or academic misconduct, according to academics in Shanghai who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It is difficult for Shanghai party officials to ignore at a time when corruption involving land deals is a national issue, one academic said.

According to some online reports, Fudan University acquired lands previously belonging to the Air Force, in some cases driving farmers off the land without compensation, Shanghai based lawyers said.

Corrupt practices became evident during the land acquisition phase and construction, effectively transferring public land taken over by Fudan into private hands.

Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong told local radio that he had written a ‘letter of accusation’ on the matter of land corruption in Shanghai as far back as April 2009 to then president Hu Jintao, alleging that a large number of senior party officials, some junior party officials, their families and also “secretaries, networks and subordinates” had bought houses at cheap purchase prices as a result of the land deals.