As a fierce wave of COVID-19 infections invades Beijing, three more professors at Tsinghua University have died, adding to an increasing death toll among Chinese Communist Party (CCP) experts. They were also influential as members of China’s top academic advisory bodies.
On the morning of Dec. 26, internationally renowned architectural design expert Guan Zhaoye died at the age of 93. Guan was a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and chief architect of Tsinghua University’s Architectural Design Institute. His obituary noted that he was “an outstanding member of the Communist Party of China.”
Long Yuqiu, 96, a CCP cadre and retired professor of civil engineering at Tsinghua University, died on Dec. 22 at the age of 96. The following day, Lu Qiang, former professor of electrical engineering at Tsinghua University, died at the age of 86.
The official report of the deaths said simply, “Medical treatment was ineffective.” No further details were provided.
Long and Lu were members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), respectively. Lu was also a member of the standing committee of the 8th, 9th, and 10th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
CAE and CAS, known as “the Two Academies,” are ministerial-level institutions under the Chinese state council and serve as the CCP’s state scientific think tank.
Through advisory and appraisal services, academics influence state policies regarding the national economy, social development, and science and technology progress. In addition, the CCP uses academics to indoctrinate the public in order to achieve its propaganda purposes and provide a theoretical basis for its rules. Tsinghua University is especially notable in this regard, giving the recent deaths particular significance.
Record Number of Obituaries
Between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10, Tsinghua University released eighteen obituaries, a record number. The first ten days of December alone saw eleven deaths, including that of CAS member Huang Kezhi, who died on Dec. 8 at the age of 95. Kezhi was a faculty member in the Department of Engineering Mechanics at Tsinghua’s School of Aerospace Engineering.
On Dec. 18, Li Dexiang, renowned architect and professor at the university’s Institute of Architecture, died at the age of 80; his obituary called him an “outstanding Communist Party member.”
On Dec. 20, Wu Guanying, a renowned illustrator and retired professor at the university, died at the age of 67. Wu was the designer of the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games mascot “Fu Niu Lele” and one of the designers of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games mascot “Fuwa.”
On Dec. 20 at 9 p.m., Beijing Daily’s official WeChat said that Wu “died of a heavy cold infection.” A little over an hour later, the post was changed to read “died of illness.”
Despite the old age of many of the recently deceased, the number of deaths is unusual. High-ranking CCP cadres are well-taken care of by the party, enjoying top-notch medical care and frequently living to advanced age by means that are out of the reach of ordinary Chinese, such as organ transplantation.
Official Reports Avoid Mention of COVID-19
When announcing the recent deaths—which read like a Who’s Who of influential academicians and experts—neither Tsinghua University nor the official media was specific about the cause of death.
However, in response to the growing number of deaths, on Dec. 9, Tsinghua University set up a special group to coordinate COVID-19 prevention and control for its retired faculty members.
Doctors at Capital Medical University’s Xuanwu Hospital told Beijing Daily on Dec. 23 that starting on Dec. 8, the hospital began seeing a sharp rise in visits to its fever clinic. The clinic is currently seeing five to six hundred emergency patients per day. The number of elderly patients has increased dramatically and the proportion of serious and critically ill patients has soared.
Private Sources More Honest
Similar information from private sources is more straightforward. For example, Mei Xinyu, a Chinese economist and researcher at the Ministry of Commerce, posted on Weibo that his father-in-law, Hu Angang, died of COVID-induced pneumonia on Dec. 21.
Hu was a professor at Tsinghua University’s Institute of Public Administration and a director of the university’s Institute for Contemporary China Studies (ICCS).
According to ICCS’s official site, the institute has been providing consulting services for major national decisions for many years. Its publication, National Research Report, has become a vital reference for central and local government decisions.
Known as a “triumphalist” academic, Hu’s 2018 statement that “China has surpassed the United States in all aspects” triggered a petition by 1,000 Tsinghua alumni demanding his expulsion from the university on the grounds that his words misled Chinese leaders by overestimating China’s strength.
Mei wrote in the post that a CT scan of Hu’s lungs showed pneumonia-like opacity. “The old man was a veteran party cadre who was awarded the republican medal, but finally had to be put on the floor of the hospital morgue to wait for cremation,” he commented.
Mei also revealed that “there are 200-300 bodies queuing to be cremated in Beijing’s Babaoshan Mountain every day,” and that “almost all of this large family was infected in this epidemic tsunami.”
Babaoshan Mountain refers to Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, a cemetery for high-level CCP officials or individuals who have made important contributions to the party.
Academic Institutions as a Tool of the CCP
The recent wave of deaths at Chinese universities has decimated the roster of China’s most influential individuals.
Academics are used by the CCP to indoctrinate the public in communist principles and to provide a theoretical basis for CCP rules. Their role does not end when they retire from teaching. Serving in advisory roles, academics can influence state policies regarding the economy, social development, and science and technology progress.
China’s top universities are an incubator for dedicated party members and CCP leaders.
Yang Si, a former member of the CAS, told The Epoch Times on Dec. 24 that the CCP’s grip on universities is very tight. They are second only to the military and police in terms of party control, and party organizations have been extended to all levels.
From its origins as a student movement in the 1920s, the CCP has been aware of the influence of professors on their students—an influence that is much greater than that of party branch leaders. As a result, the CCP’s surveillance of professors is also particularly strict, Yang said.
“China’s universities are playgrounds of the Communist Party. Outwardly, universities are training students, but in fact, they are to train the regime’s lackeys, or what the party calls ‘red and professional’ people. Among them, ‘red’ refers to the same mind with the party, ‘professional’ refers to having professional skills.”
Tsinghua University: Particularly Influential
Tsinghua University is especially well-known in this respect, with many graduates rising to professional and political prominence.
The first CCP branch was established at the university in November 1926. The school came under full state control after the establishment of the Chinese communist regime in 1949.
In 1999, Beijing awarded the “Two Bombs, One Satellite” Medal of Merit to 23 science and technology experts, 14 of whom were Tsinghua alumni.
“Two Bombs, One Satellite” referred to the atomic bomb, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and the artificial satellite. The Two Bombs, One Satellite program was an early nuclear and space project initiated by CCP leader Mao Zedong, with the goal of fighting the United States.
“Tsinghua University is one of China’s top science and technology universities that the CCP has long supported,” current affairs commentator Li Yanming told The Epoch Times on Dec. 24. “It has also produced the most high-tech talent for the regime, dominating top-notch fields such as nuclear weapons and military industry.”
In addition to training its own people, Tsinghua University has been involved in recruiting talent overseas for the CCP. For example, in November 2021, Tsinghua University participated in the establishment of the Cross-Strait Tsinghua Research Institute to poach much-needed semiconductor talent from Taiwan.
The Cross-Strait Tsinghua Research Institute, backed by the Xiamen Municipal Government and the CCP secretary of Tsinghua University, has a political—not merely academic—agenda, reported Taiwanese news media Newtalk, citing the CCP’s attempt to infiltrate Taiwan’s campuses and draw Taiwanese scientific and technological talent to mainland China.
Birthplace of Senior CCP officials
Tsinghua University is known as a breeding ground for senior party officials. “In Chinese politics, there is no university that can influence high-level politics like Tsinghua University,” said an article on Zhihu, China’s question-and-answer platform.
Of 24 members of the twentieth politburo, five are from Tsinghua University, including Xi Jinping.
Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, also graduated from Tsinghua University. In addition, Wu Guanzheng, Zhu Rongji, Yao Yilin, Song Ping, Hu Qili, and Huang Ju, members of the politburo, all graduated from Tsinghua University.
Closely intertwined with the ruling system, Tsinghua University is a major source of senior CCP officials. Dozens of senior officials at the state and vice-state levels, as well as numerous at the provincial and ministerial levels, hail from the school. These officials are pivotal in CCP bureaucracy, according to Li Yanming.
Deaths Follow the Demise of Jiang Zemin
“The education system in China is in the saddle of the CCP and follows the party’s political situation, closely cooperating with the party’s actions, such as the suppression of Falun Gong, in which universities, middle schools, and elementary schools are all involved,” Li Yanming said.
Chinese educational institutions brainwash students into believing in communism and atheism, Li said, and instill hatred of other beliefs. For that reason, members of persecuted groups like Falun Gong may see special significance in the recent wave of deaths in Chinese academic circles.
Falun Gong, first introduced in 1992, is a spiritual practice based on the principle of “truth, compassion, and forbearance.” The movement has attracted millions of followers. In July 1999, ex-CCP leader Jiang Zemin launched a vicious persecution of Falun Gong, resulting in the torture of countless adherents, most notably by live organ harvesting. The CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong continues today.
Jiang Zemin died on Nov. 30, just prior to the current outbreak of COVID-19. Some observers see a connection between the ruthless leader and the deaths of influential CCP members who promoted his policies.
“A series of sensitive events foreshadow that the final drama of the CCP is on stage, which fulfills the previous warning of the founder of Falun Gong,” Li Yanming said.
In March 2020, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi warned in a Minghui.org post entitled “Stay Rational:” “Truth be told, pandemics only come when people’s morals and values have turned bad and they have come to have a massive amount of karma.”
“People should distance themselves from the CCP and stop siding with the Party, ” Li Hongzhi said.
Ellen Wan contributed to this article.
From The Epoch Times