Hackers' Good Deed at Tsinghua University
|Sep 13, 2008|
Here is my translation of the article:-
“Tsinghua is the pearl at the pinnacle of China’s pyramid of universities. Its IT-related professional achievement reportedly ranks first in the nation. But this did not prevent hackers from invading its website: the headline story on the website was replaced by an essay allegedly written by the dean of the university criticizing the existing education system. Frankly speaking, the essay is well written with rational arguments, except for one slightly crude remark: ‘The present education system is in effect injecting feces into students’ minds.’ And it was this crude remark that made me wonder about the authenticity of the allegation when I first saw it on the internet. Yet I was also feeling a bit disappointed – how I wished it were true.
Of course, if it were false, it couldn’t be made true. Tsinghua was infuriated about the hacker incident and immediately declared the university’s ‘indignation and denunciation’ of the deed. If I were to guess, the university has good reason to be worried about the consequence of the incident. Just imagine, given the audacious critique about the current education system, if government officials harbor the slightest suspicion about the dean, someone will definitely have to endure sleepless nights. As, otherwise, why on earth would they be so worked up? The hackers did not put up pornographic or subversive contents on the website. They were not trying to assign blame on any innocent person. Contrary to what one might expect, the popularity rating of both the dean and Tsinghua University shot up on the internet just a few days after the incident.
As expressed in some internet comments on Tsinghua’s ‘indignation and denunciation’, the latter’s subterfuge is even pettier than the hackers’ deed. It can be said that the hacking incident itself is far less loathsome than the subsequent denunciation of it.
On the other hand, we should not be too harsh on our precious Tsinghua. These days, which university dean is not afraid of the authorities? A saying goes: ‘We are not afraid of officials; but we are afraid of being controlled.’ Well, our officials not only carry the titles and status but they also have real power to control. Under such circumstances, how can one not be afraid, how would one dare to be unafraid? If you find any university dean who dares to criticize the current education system, it is most likely that this person is about to retire from his job. Under our present system, even if you were the dean of a brand-name university carrying both the titles of professor and administrator, you would have to wait till you are near retirement or are actually retired before you can speak any word of truth.
Being afraid of officials and their power to control is not only connected to retaining or losing careers; it is also a factor related to the survival and development of the entire university. According to certain insiders of some famous universities, in actual fact these universities are very dissatisfied with some measures imposed by the education department officials. For example, there can be an evaluation of an academic subject, but there can be no rejection even if the evaluation warrants it. Because if you dare to reject, there can be serious consequences. First of all, the large sums of project funding can be cut off. It doesn’t matter if you are number one in the country, if you cross the officials, they can ruin you. What can you do if they choose to withhold the funding even if you are entitled to it? Secondly and even more important – your university’s official ranking may slide. All insiders know that if the government department no longer favors a university, this university’s various crucial indicators will suffer within the official rating system. Our universities, with a few exceptions, are all government-funded. Although it’s taxpayers’ money, taxpayers basically have no right to interfere. Whoever has the power to control, his words are final.
It is for this reason that despite our education system having got to the stage where everyone reviles it, still no one from within the system stands up to speak against it. Everybody just keeps his mouth shut, until the day comes when things are rotten to the core. So, if a hacker invades a website and upsets the university’s stable and unified front, just be quick to delete the message and express ‘indignation’. This way, at least Tsinghua will get back its peace, Amen!”