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Chinese students protest as varsity charter cuts 'freedom of thought'

Shanghai: One of China's top universities has removed references to "freedom of thought" from its official charter, triggering a rare act of student defiance, while two other institutions have moved to strengthen their allegiance to President Xi Jinping.

A video that circulated this week showed students at Shanghai's Fudan University gathering to sing the school song -- which extols "academic independence and freedom of thought" -- in an apparent protest against the


Fudan's charter change was announced by the Ministry of Education on its website late Tuesday and quickly became a hot topic on social media, with posts questioning the move before China's ever-vigilant online censors acted to delete posts and block


As well as removing the "freedom of thought" reference, the new version inserts "arming the minds of teachers and students with Xi Jinping's new era of socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics".

It also obliges the school's faculty and teachers to adhere to "core socialist values" and for the institution to build a campus environment that is "harmonious" -- a word typically used as code for the elimination of any anti-government sentiment.

The ministry announced similar changes to the charters of Nanjing University in eastern China, and Shaanxi Normal University in the north earlier this month, although neither institution referenced freedom of thought in their originals.

Xi took office in 2012 and has implemented a campaign to increase the ruling Communist Party's grip on the country and build a personality cult around himself which includes reverential references to a vaguely defined "Xi Jinping Thought" that recalls the days of Communist founder Mao Zedong.

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