Amid an ongoing crackdown on labor rights activism in China, several students from Peking University (Beida) and other elite institutions have been detained, harassed, and violently attacked for their support of workers and of Marxist ideals. At the Washington Post, Gerry Shih reports on the ordeals faced by student activists at Beida, including Qiu Zhanxuan, the leader of a Marxist student group who disappeared in April. Before his disappearance, Qiu released a video detailing his brutal four-day interrogation by police on campus. From Shih’s report:
The story of Peking University’s Marxist club — as told by four members who remain secretly active and spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety, their supporters, and a trove of writings and videos left by activists anticipating arrest — illustrates the anxious political atmosphere in China, where idealistic students who embrace the party’s own ideology can be suppressed just like any other political threat.
It poses wider questions that go to the heart of modern China: What exactly does the Communist Party stand for? What gives it the right to rule?
[…] In the south, labor disputes are ticking up again after falling for a decade. In the north, Beijing officials provoked a national outcry last winter after they forcibly expelled communities of migrant workers from the capital. In China’s heartland, a city last year was occupied by thousands of decommissioned, jobless soldiers petitioning for compensation.
Each challenge to authority was supported, in part, by students.
“The government is scared because the domestic contradictions are growing,” Michael said. “Once you study Marxism, you know real socialism and China’s so-called socialism with Chinese characteristics are two different things. They sell fascism as socialism, like a street vendor passes off dog meat as lamb.” [Source]
The crackdown comes as China marks a series of sensitive anniversaries, including the recent 100th anniversary of the May Fourth student movement of 1919, which the CCP has tightly controlled public discussion of in an effort to rally student support for the current government. Next week will mark the 30th anniversary of the 1989 protest movement, which was launched by students at Beida and other universities and which ended in bloodshed following a military crackdown.
In recent months, students have written accounts, often anonymously, detailing the harassment and disappearance of their classmates. CDT has translated several of these accounts. A more recent anonymous account, translated by Made in China Journal, offers a detailed description of the surveillance and harassment faced by several Beida students:
At Peking University today, black is brighter than any other colour and reality is more bizarre than movies.
While students are living a normal student life, attending classes, reviewing, and taking exams on time; some other students are living a completely different life. In this secretive life, there are parents having nervous breakdowns, frequent interrogations, and even sexual harassment of students by university staff. The police are stripping and searching them, and demand these students to give in and admit their mistakes under threat of being expelled or put in handcuffs.
Since last year’s ‘28 December protest’ against the reorganisation of the Marxist student group at Peking University, their voices cannot be heard on campus anymore. Occasionally, people read some phrases like ‘Zhan Zhenzhen was suspended from school’ on the Internet, but there has been no definite news. As far as I know, this kind of ‘being disappeared’ does not mean that these students no longer pay attention to the rights and interests of the workers and have abandoned their criticism as a weapon. On the contrary, it can only point to the unacceptable fact described above. i.e. that students are under unimaginable pressure and restrictions.
On 23 January 2019, after more than 40 hours of police custody and interrogation while in a state of sleep deprivation, Student A was sent home, and her mobile phone, computer, and ID card were confiscated. Her network at home was cut off, her parents’ phones were monitored, and she had to report whenever she went out. In a nutshell, she was cut off from all contact with the outside world. And this was just to lay the groundwork for the ensuing, and more intense ‘ideological and political education’. [Source]
In Solidarity, Chinese labor activist Qian Ben-li has written an article outlining the internal debate between different Maoist factions in China, to “indicate how they are grappling with strategic and tactical problems in the face of sharp repression, differences in regional conditions, and varying levels of workers’ consciousness and combativity.”