Netizen Voices: Police Violence Against Student Protestors Sparks Anger

University students in Zhejiang clashed with police officers after kidnapping their principal in an attempt to block a merger with a technical college. Mass protests on college campuses are exceedingly rare in China. Although social media posts relating details of the clash were censored, many expressed shock at the violence police officers used on the students. From The AFP via The Straits Times, a report on the clash between students and security officers:

Undergraduates at Nanjing Normal University’s Zhongbei College, in eastern Jiangsu province, were enraged by a plan to merge the school with a vocational college, fearing it would devalue their qualifications as they prepare for China’s intensely competitive job market.

[…] The hashtag “Nanjing Normal University Zhongbei College students injured by violent law enforcement” was blocked on Weibo by Tuesday afternoon, along with all related images.

[…] One student witness confirmed the authenticity of the images, estimating that around 3,000 students and 400 police officers were involved.

“We were not arrested. The school hired auxiliary police who injured, beat, pepper-sprayed, threatened and verbally abused students,” some students said, withholding their names for safety reasons. [Source]

The BBC explained the provenance of the protest: strife over prestige and job prospects in the brutal  hiring market facing young graduates:

Independent colleges are co-funded by universities and social organisations or individuals. Students who do not get the required exam scores to enter university can apply to these institutions, where they can still graduate with a university degree – but at higher tuition costs.

These degrees are seen as more prestigious than vocational degrees, and graduates believe they offer them better opportunities in the country’s fiercely competitive job market.

China is expected to have a record nine million university graduates this year. [Source]

State-affiliated Global Times provided further detail on the controversy over independent colleges role in China’s higher education system:

For example, Nanjing Normal University’s minimum admission score in 2020 was 603, but its affiliated Zhongbei College had a minimum admission score of 326, according to education information website The annual tuition fee of Zhongbei College is about 15,000 yuan ($2,474), while the annual tuition of its parent university, Nanjing Normal University, is about 5,000 yuan ($781).

Supporters of independent colleges believe they expand China’s higher education resources and help more Chinese students receive college education. But critics of independent colleges claim they are means of fund raising for parent universities. However, because they offer diplomas and undergraduate degrees affiliated with top universities, many students are willing to enroll.

[…] If independent colleges merge with higher vocational and technical schools they will become ordinary higher vocational schools. Although they would still be universities and offer undergraduate degrees, the undergraduate degrees would become “professional bachelor’s degrees” instead of the usual bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. Most students and parents see this as an “obvious downgrade” and believe that it will greatly reduce the competitiveness of students in the job market after graduation. Therefore, plans to merge independent institutions with vocational institutions have been unpopular among students and parents.

Editors at CDT Chinese collected comments on the incident from across the internet, a selection of which have been translated below:

@斗图君小新:That’s just great, the rescuers deployed 100 police troops who, with the utmost rationality and restraint, used pepper spray to serve the people! Respect!

@吉不姞: Who is restricting who’s freedom, huh? The SWAT team blockade is preventing students from entering. This is a restriction on all students’ freedoms. All we want is a legal solution. The principal and other top leaders speak in riddles and then clam up. They haven’t said anything about the police treatment of students. It is obvious the school is at fault, so why are they blaming the students? Their crusade against us comes after listening to the school’s one-sided statements, on what grounds!

@樂pakho: Who used hundreds of police to illegally detain students? Who pushed students to the ground and beat them? How many police dragged the girl? And they call this justified defense? We have videos that prove all we have described is the truth! Do you dare to release them? Does Toutiao dare?!!! If so, then release them!

@玛娜菲: What is it that they call the “iron fist of socialism”…

@期年之杳:I don’t know what truth today’s media pursues. Is it calling black white? Is it stomping on weak students to protect officials? Do you feel that you’re standing on the moral high ground, looking down unto those utterly powerless students? What, exactly, are the original intentions of reporting? Ask yourself, do you have a guilty conscience? [Chinese]

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