As the webmaster of New Threads (http://www.xys.org) — the website “at the centre of concerns over claims of misconduct”, according to your Special Report “Named and shamed” (Nature 441, 392–393; 2006) — I cannot agree with your comment that “some fear persecution reminiscent of that used in the Cultural Revolution”.
The Cultural Revolution was started by Chairman Mao in 1966 and formally ended with his death in 1976. Although 30 years have passed, the memory of this calamity is still vivid in many Chinese minds — it is understandable that some fear the tragedy might someday recur. But it is ridiculous to compare free speech on the Internet to the violence of the Cultural Revolution, which was controlled by a dictator, allowed for no freedom and included governmental persecution of ‘class enemies’. I find it ironic that 120 Chinese-American scientists and self-appointed human-rights advocates have signed an open letter appealing to the Chinese government to suppress media and public opinions: they still need to learn what free speech and human rights mean.
I agree that China should establish an official channel to investigate allegations of misconduct. In fact, I made this suggestion as early as 2001, in a speech to the Chinese students and scholars association at the University of California, San Diego (see http://www.xys.org/xys/netters/Fang-Zhouzi/science/yanjiang.txt). But before this channel exists, and to make sure it functions properly after it is established, free press and free speech are indispensable.