How I Made it to Renmin University’s Blacklist

Six weeks ago, 22-year-old Marxist student activist Yue Xin was detained, just over a week after she posted an open letter, translated in full by CDT, to the CCP Central Committee expressing support for protesting Jasic Technology Factory workers. Yue was one of about 50 student activists and workers who were detained while rallying for the protesting workers in Shenzhen. At the South China Morning Post, Guo Rui and Mimi Lau report that Yue is still yet to be seen since the detention, and notes the advocacy techniques of the new generation of Marxist activists that she represents, and that some Chinese universities appear to be targeting:

The detentions were part of an intensifying clampdown by the authorities on a growing number of young Chinese activists who have found inspiration in in recent years, hoping to bring change on issues ranging from feminism and income equality to workers’ rights.

But in sharp contrast to the official Marxist line, this new generation of Marxists emphasises individual freedoms, with some even showing interest in a Western constitutional democracy – a stand the country’s mainstream Marxists and Maoists usually dismiss as the wrong path for China.

[…] Most of the protesters detained in August have since been released, but four have been placed under “residential at a designated location” – a form of secret detention – while four others are still in custody and could face prosecution, according to their friends and other activists.

But the whereabouts of Yue, as well as her mother, who has been out of contact since early September, remain unknown. […] [Source]

A WeChat essay posted early this month serves as another example of an apparent campaign to limit the influence and activism of left-wing student activists on Chinese university campuses. In a since deleted post that has been archived by CDT Chinese, Renmin University student Xiang Junwei detailed how his worker-advocacy and “care for the grassroots” won him a spot on a student “blacklist,” which came with intense surveillance from teachers and university staff, as well as the harassment of himself and his family. described similar treatment from Peking University after she filed a freedom of information request for information on a decades-old rape accusation on campus.  CDT has translated Xiang’s essay in full:

Hi, everyone. I’m Xiang Junwei, undergraduate student of the 2016 entering class of of China’s School of Economics.

In my last essay, “I was Entrapped by Renmin University Teachers and Kicked Out of My Class,” I disclosed the details of how my class advisor directed my classmates to kick me out of the class group for spreading inappropriate speech.

After the article’s publication, I have received all kinds of support and encouragement from friends and classmates–some I know, and some I don’t. Thank you, everyone!

Four hours after it was posted, those attempting to view it started receiving 404 “page not found” error messages. It was frozen at 26,256 views and 2,338 likes.

I trust my class director and department leaders all saw my article. It doesn’t matter if they admit to the facts written therein. At the very least, they should understand that there will always be someone willing to speak out if some unjust phenomenon would occur on our peaceful, quiet campus. There will always be a price to pay for doing the wrong thing.

However, as far as my class director and department leaders are concerned, seeing that a wrongdoing has been revealed and correcting the mistake are two different things.

It has been two days, and Class Director Zhang Wen has yet to express any apology for her actions. But it didn’t take long for my mom to start calling me nonstop. Judging from all the things that have transpired, I’m sure that teachers have told my mother things such as: “He has political problems,” “Students shouldn’t have any other thoughts beside studying hard,” “Having an is dangerous,” “There are very serious repercussions,” threatening my mother, making her plead with me to not say another word.

My class director neither admitted to wrongdoing, nor spoke to me directly. The school, on the other hand, put pressure on my parents, who didn’t know what was really going on, causing them to live in a state of fear and extreme sadness.

Do these actions possibly live up to the “People” (人民 renmin) in the university’s name?

After I published my article, one of my classmates, feeling deeply that our advisor behaved inappropriately, publicly dissed his actions in social media.

Though the teachers can hold an “everyone-but-me class meeting,” tarnish my name in front of everyone, in my classmates eyes all is clear. Who’s right, who’s wrong–everyone knows the answer in their hearts.

In actuality, this particular instance of me getting kicked out of the class group for “spreading inappropriate speech” is only the tip of the iceberg of Renmin University of China School of Economics teachers suppressing the freedom of their students. Their finger pointing at my character, even open slander, has caused me great harm. It’s not just my class director behaving this way. And I’m not the only classmate who has had his or her character or name tarnished.

School of Economics Party Secretary Guan Xueling has publicly slandered me and other students in front of many students from many class groups during Party Branch meetings, saying I was disrupting educational and social order, even “shaking the stability of the country.” She attacked me personally, saying I came from a bad background, had low grades and no hope for my future, I had low self-esteem and was lonely, and I was therefore looking for an alternate path to success.

True, my parents are both laborers. Compared to other students at Renmin University, my family background isn’t that great. But I’ve never considered myself lower than others and become complacent based on the fact my family isn’t rich. I’m extremely surprised and angry–what right do these teachers have to use my background against me? Has my character really become a reason to attack me? Everyone who knows me knows that my character is nothing like this.

Is it that the teachers see all students from poorer backgrounds as having some “original sin,” that they should all be stigmatized?

Their claims that I was disrupting educational and social order are even more illusory. The only reason I was suffering from such slander was because I went to work at a factory for a period of time this summer.

Because my parents are laborers, after starting college I always wanted to do more to help workers. I hoped to get to know them better. Over summer vacation I found a factory to work in, in order to both experience what factory worker life was like and also strengthen my own work ethic. I could also earn some tuition money.

I quickly befriended many young workers there. They were all the same age as me, yet their lives were a hundred times tougher than that of a student. The factory left a deep impression on my heart. Every aspect of our lives–clothing, food, housing, transportation, entertainment—everything was connected to their job. I hoped to be able to do something good for them in the future.

However, as I prepared to resign and return home, the factory deducted a large amount of my pay for no reason. They didn’t want to pay me. Of course I wanted to dispute their actions. As a result, the factory surprisingly contacted my class director. After my advisor heard from them, not only did she not help me obtain my hard-earned pay, rather, her first reaction was to call my parents! She claimed I was being confrontational with my boss at the factory, and that I was walking a dangerous line. This caused my parents to be extremely worried. I really cannot understand why a class advisor would want to treat her own students this way!

When I asked my advisor why she wanted to scare my parents like this, to my surprise, she said, “Though you say you aren’t in a dangerous position right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be at any second. So, I wanted to tell your parents about the danger you’re in right now.”

She also brought up my diploma to threaten me, and demanded I forfeit my pay and leave the factory immediately.

After leaving the factory, my advisor called to demand I report where I was to her at all times. I even had to take pictures to prove where I was. I told her I had the right to plan my summer vacation however I wanted, and that I did not have to report my movements to the school. She even admitted that this amounted to surveillance. She informed me, in a forceful tone of voice, that she would be calling constantly. I was forced to turn off my phone for long periods of time to escape her surveillance.

As a result, she blew up my parents’ phone–even calling my nearly-seventy-year-old grandparents, threatening them, saying “your grandson is conducting criminal activity,” even saying a ton of things like “impending arrest,” “going to grab him,” and other things that had no basis in fact. My grandparents, who suffer from multiple illnesses, spent the summer unable to eat or sleep.

What did my grandparents do wrong? What right did she have to terrify them so? Because they aren’t her relatives, and she therefore cares nothing about their health? She’s willing to use innocent elderly people as a bargaining chip to control me?

And on top of all this, my teacher openly claimed I was undermining my family relationships!

Later, a classmate at the Party Branch meeting who felt the teachers’ actions toward me were improper let me see his meeting notes. As it turned out, the teachers had already drawn up a list of student names, and my name was on the list. That explained why I was being subjected to all of these various kinds of special treatment.

(Content of the hand-written notes:

  1. Get a hold on ideological and political education. Party Group Cadres must strengthen their fight, do every student right. Do not let a single student get away. The Party Group must talk “policy, politics, principle, discipline.”
  2. Party Committee members say they are waging a “protracted war,” patiently working with students, long-term.
  3. National People’s Congress: “11 people,” one graduated, five males six females.
  4. Some students have “lost touch,” “lost control”–the repercussions are very serious.
  5. Students have damaged familial relationships. Teachers have spent too much energy doing students’ work. Students have already disrupted educational order. Students have incited workers, disrupted societal order, disrupted the “stability of the country.”
  6. Characteristics of these students:
  7. Background: bad family environment, have seen the darkness of society.
  8. Low grades: taking the normal path [to success in school] doesn’t work, they have low self-esteem, then “look for alternative paths.”
  9. Unsociable personality, don’t like to converse with others.
  10. The students also study Marx and Engels, so the Party Group should strengthen its own theories. As teachers are doing student work, they must guard against students “inciting defection.” Teachers are consultants–provide theoretical support.)

Here we have a list of names:

These 12 students have already been marked into different groups by color. The first three names are probably teachers’ “main combat targets”! I’m listed as number three. Previously, I was a living, breathing classmate. Now, in the eyes of the teachers, we’re just names separated into different levels. Those who don’t listen become targets for attack, fundamentally unable to earn teachers’ respect. What difference does this have with those bureaucratic students?

“Don’t let a single person get away,” “wage a protracted war,” “student cadres must all pay attention to our daily activities and report back”… When I saw these words, the school that I once admired above everything, with it’s goal of developing “national representatives and support beams of society,” just collapsed in an instant. We came across darkness in society, and saw our teachers as an arm we could trust and rely on. But when we did this, our teachers regarded us as “stability control targets” who disrupted the peaceful order of society, putting our names on a working list.

Seeing a phrase like “stability of the country,” I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Which dynasty’s emperor do the teachers see me as? Just as they said, we all study Marx and Engels, so why worry about us “inciting defection”? It’s not like Party Group cadres are studying false theory, right?

When I went to get an answer to the above question from the School Party Committee Deputy Secretary Liu Rui this morning, I only got the following response: “When your ideology gets back in line, your name will disappear from that list. Otherwise it will be there until graduation.” But I believe in Marxist ideology–what kind of ideology should I switch to?

When asked if students from other departments were on the blacklist, Deputy Secretary Liu said that the department gets its list from the university. Inferring from this, I believe there are more names on the list than the twelve of us from the School of Economics. If the university thinks a student is acting dishonestly his or her name will be on the list. And the existence of this blacklist is a secret. Those on the list are being subjected to this special treatment without knowing they have been placed on a list. Those on the list include some of the brave students who came out during the April anti-sexual assault activities. They are now tracked and observed.

Deputy Secretary Liu was in no mood to answer my requests. To the contrary, he kept asking me where I got the list from, saying that the student who leaked the list “had ulterior motives.” I want to ask Deputy Secretary Liu: was this list a trivial accomplishment, or a grand and righteous act? Why do you dare not let everyone know about it, instead of waiting for an opportune time to get even? When light shines into darkness, revealing demons and monsters, could it be that the light itself is in the wrong? Light itself now has ulterior motives, here to disrupt social order?

I believe that the teachers and the students should be on equal terms. Just because you are a teacher doesn’t mean you can baselessly slander me, let alone cause such great harm to my innocent family. Class Director Zhang, Secretary Guan, and the other teachers of the School of Economics should take responsibility for what they have said to me and for the harm their words have caused me and my family–not threaten my parents and grandparents behind my back.

After the release of this article, if the teachers continue to choose to call or threaten my parents, then I will continue to speak out. I cannot believe that Renmin University of China has become a concentration camp where students are oppressed at will!

I demand:

  1. Class Director Zhang must apologize to me, clarify the facts of the situation to my family, and guarantee that my parents and relatives are never again harassed.
  2. School Party Committee Member Guan and Class Director Zhang must clear my record and reestablish my reputation.
  3. Renmin University of China administrators must not in any way attack, seek revenge against, or slander any student who cares about campus development or pays attention to worker and peasant issues. They must give back our space for free and comprehensive development.

My WeChat QR code can be found below. I welcome everyone to add me as a WeChat contact: xjw18810878179. I will keep everyone posted on the progress of this situation as it happens!

[Chinese]

Translation by Bluegill.

See also a recent CDT translation of a list of dozens of tags used to categorize individuals in public security databases posted by an anonymous netizen who worked in China’s public security system and came to see the categorization system as oppressive.