Zhou, 75, who has been retired for more than a decade, received a call from the university on Dec. 28, firing him from his post.
“I said I’m retired, so how can I be fired?” Zhou, who currently lives in the United States.
“Just doing it by phone like that was a bit much; who are they trying to humiliate?” he said, adding that he was likely fired for “seeking truth from facts,” a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expression denoting a more realistic approach to governance than was seen under late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
“Renmin University’s motto is ‘seek truth from facts’,” Zhou said.
Zhou requested written notice of his “firing,” but didn’t receive a clear reply.
Calls to the university’s institute of sociology and office of the CCP committee rang unanswered during office hours on Dec. 29.
Searches on the Chinese search engine Baidu for “Zhou Xiaozheng” in Chinese returned no results on the same day, while his name appeared to have been deleted from a list of retired faculty on the university’s website.
The move came after Zhou, who still spoke with like-minded people back in China via the social media platform WeChat, had two social media accounts shut down by government censors.
“They want to block any dissenting voices, and they have denied me my right to freedom of expression and information,” Zhou said. “They are clearly acting out of a guilty conscience.”
Zhou said he didn’t believe the move could have happened without the approval of someone high up in the Chinese leadership.
“This clearly came from higher up,” he said. “They want to make it so that you can say something, but have no way to disseminate it.”
“They cut off your oxygen, cut you off from the Internet, and leave you in a vacuum, so that even if you do say something, nobody else can hear you,” Zhou said.
Zhou said he has never drawn down the pension that came with his university post.
“I have never withdrawn a penny from the pension account opened by Renmin University,” he said. “I don’t want their money; I’ve never even looked at it.”
“I told them ages ago that I would donate it,” he said.
Zhou’s sacking came after he gave an interview to RFA in June 2021, in which he described the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a criminal organization engaging in fraud, with Mao Zedong as its leader.
“It has always been a one-party dictatorship, and now it’s a one-person dictatorship, too,” Zhou said in the interview.
“There is no leadership of the CCP any more: there is only one leader, and that’s Xi.”