BEIJING (Reuters) - Narrow-minded, repressive attacks on Chinese university academics and social media activists discredit the country more than calls for more open government, an academic said, in the latest tussle between liberals and conservatives.
President Xi Jinping has tightened control over the media, political dissidents and the Internet and has urged more "ideological guidance" at universities.
In the latest criticism reflecting government views, an influential Communist Party journal accused prominent academics of discrediting the country by spreading "Western values".
The journal Qiushi said some people had made discrediting China "fashionable" and they constantly stood in opposition to mainstream values "regardless of the actual facts".
The journal called on universities to "resist the influence of hostile powers". It singled out Peking University law professor He Weifang saying he "goes on and on about constitutional government" on social media.
Reached by telephone on Monday, He said he had no comment beyond a response posted on his microblog, in which he said the Qiushi article was "not only narrow-minded but also ignorant".
"Can a few academics and a bunch of microblogs really discredit China?" he said in the posting.
"What really discredits China is just this kind of repressive speech and behavior."
The journal in its Saturday essay, written by Xu Lan, a publicity official in Zhejiang province, also hurled barbs at painter Chen Danqing.
Chen, who has lectured at Tsinghua University, "idealises" the United States in his writing, the journal said, inducing people to travel there.
Zhao Chu, a well-known political commentator, defended He and Chen in a blog post, saying their views were based on common sense and personal experience.
"Their opinions and speech couldn't be more normal for any modern society, and if they are eager to take the trouble to speak, it means they embody the spirit of concern for public affairs," Zhao wrote.
Chinese universities are tightly controlled by the government though students have at times pushed the limits, including during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were suppressed by the army.Xi has espoused old school Maoism as he seeks to court powerful conservative elements in the party. Like many officials before him, Xi is steeped in the party's long-held belief that loosening control too quickly, or even at all, could lead to chaos and the break-up of the country.
(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)