HANGZHOU, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The president of a renowned Chinese university was caught playing computer games during an academic forum, sparking the latest round of criticism on China's higher education sector.
Photos of Yang Wei, president of east China's Zhejiang University, playing an image linking game on his laptop during a conference have found their way to the Internet, with netizens leaving comments such as "poor educator, good game player."
Netizens have blasted Yang for what many of them consider disrespectful behavior that has brought shame to his institution and academia as a whole.
"If a headmaster can play games at a meeting, so can students at class. With mentors like that, I wonder why Chinese universities seldom produce masters," read a post on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site.
A staff member at the forum, which was held in the city of Nanjing on July 22, said the headmaster turned on his computer to play games while another college president gave a presentation.
The forum, with college heads from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan participating, discussed the promotion of Chinese culture -- all the more reason for netizens to lash out sarcastically.
The scandal surfaced after photos of Zhou Qifeng, president of Peking University, made a splash online. Some Internet users suspected Zhou of executing a publicity stunt when photos showed him kneeling before his mother, wailing, at her 90th birthday celebration.
Zhou, who chairs China's top seat of learning, had previously been criticized for smiling too "rhetorically" and "obsequiously" when accompanying Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang during a tour of the campus.
The incidents suggest that public opinion on prominent heads of Chinese universities is turning increasingly hostile, with attacks on their public gaffes in incidents that tend to involve government officials and celebrities.
Fang Yanming, a journalism professor at Nanjing University, said the presidents of Chinese universities should pay more attention to their behavior in public, as many of them have become public figures.
"The public tends to see university presidents as role models who represent China's highest academic achievements and moral standards," Fang said.
But Fang said the online criticism also reflects the widespread discontent with China's higher education sector, which has developed largely due to the sector's lack of innovation and the bureaucratic trends in universities.
Chinese universities usually have officially-appointed presidents, and their administrative branch overpowers professors on many issues concerning the school and the students.
The result is, as many have pointed out, a stifling academic environment, which has led more and more Chinese middle school graduates to pursue a higher education overseas.
Feng Wei, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, said excessive administrative intervention has become a major source of complaint both in and out of China's universities.
"The public reacted so much because the presidents involved in the scandals all had official backgrounds," Feng said. "They were venting their anger at the bureaucratic operations of higher education."