Even Chinese state media get censored when it comes to princelings at Oxford

Being celebrated at Oxford can come back to haunt you in China.
Being celebrated at Oxford can come back to haunt you in China.
Image: Reuters/stringer
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The state-run China Daily found that it was not immune from the nation’s internet censors this morning after a post it published on Weibo was discreetly deleted. The newspaper linked to a Chinese-language story from Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which seems harmless enough: it tells how Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, hopes that a future Chinese president will have attended his college.

Here is the offending tweet, translated by Hong Kong University’s China Media Project:

[Oxford University seeks to train China’s future leaders] Andrew Hamilton, the vice-chancellor of England’s Oxford University says that many political leaders have studied at Oxford, and now Oxford hopes that a future Chinese General Secretary with [sic] emerge from Oxford. Currently, says Hamilton, around 900 students from China, Hong Kong and Macau are studying at Oxford. China, says Hamilton, is now a major priority for Oxford, and as move further into the 21st century China will only become more important for Oxford.

Why was a link to such a seemingly banal article censored, even though it came from China’s own propaganda arm? The most likely answer is that China’s censors are not keen to publicize the fact that many of the country’s political leaders send their children abroad to ruinously expensive universities like Oxford. Admissions to the best universities in China are already considered to be biased and corrupt, so that only the children of the well-connected can land a place.

University admissions are such a hot topic in fact that simply proving an official’s child studies overseas can be considered evidence of corruption; during the trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai questions were asked about how his son, Bo Guagua, afforded his studies at Oxford.

As it happens, after the younger Bo graduated from Oxford he also went on to a graduate degree at Harvard University in the US, where he may have rubbed elbows with president Xi Jinping’s own daughter.