China's education minister has told universities to stop using textbooks that promote Western values, reports NPR's Frank Langfitt from Shanghai, a move seen as part of a larger ideological crackdown.

At an educational forum, Yuan Guiren said universities should also forbid criticism of China's leaders and the country's political system, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Frank says the edict comes as the government disrupts virtual private networks, or VPNs, which help people access foreign websites that China's Internet cops have already blocked.

He says that earlier this week, an annual Human Rights Watch report criticized China for tightening already limited free speech in the media and on the Internet as well as for jailing rights activists, lawyers and critics.

Also, as the BBC reports, restrictions on academics appear to have tightened in recent months.

"In December, law professor Zhang Xuehong said he was sacked by the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai after refusing to apologise for writing articles criticising the government."His dismissal followed the expulsion of outspoken economist and free speech advocate Xia Yeliang from Peking University in October."Mr Xia was a signatory to a high-profile document calling for democratic reforms, Charter 08."

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