Peter Hessler: A Teacher in China Learns the Limits of Free Expression

Peter Hessler (China 1996-98)

Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) was teaching writing at Sichuan University, in southwestern China, when he was reported for political wrongdoing, accused on the social-media site Weibo of browbeating his students with criticism of the Chinese government. One commenter wrote that he had “spoke w/o restraint only b/c he considered himself a big writer; I think he’s gonna die soon.” Hessler recounts the episode in a gripping and deeply empathetic story in this week’s issue, in which he examines the ways that surveillance cameras, censored Internet, and rigorously enforced taboos have shaped the experience of higher education in China—for both teachers and students. Recalling the tension he felt in the classroom, he writes, “The Party had created a climate so intense that the political became physical.”

Ian Crouch, newsletter editor

New Peter Hessler story

One Comment

Leave a comment
  • John,

    Thank you for sharing this timely and well written piece from Petter Hessler. You suggested I read “River Town” when I was working on my memoir, “Different Latitudes” and I’m glad I did–so well written.

    This article is timely as freedom of expression is being subverted on many levels and circumstances around the world. For those writers interested in be part of a global effort to promote freedom of expression I’d urge them to join PEN America–we’ve just launched a new chapter in Phoenix.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.