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Kidnapped on campus

Communist officials are targeting student activist groups at Chinese schools

Kidnapped on campus

Members of the Jasic Workers Support Group pose for a group photo after a campaign promoting worker’s rights. Recent graduate Zhang Shengye (standing, far right) was kidnapped from the campus of Peking University earlier this month. (Jasic Workers Support Group via AP)

Authorities in China are cracking down on student Marxist groups and labor activists. In recent weeks, 12 activists have disappeared in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Wuhan, according to Reuters.

This comes after police arrested 50 student activists in August after they traveled down to Huizhou in Guangdong province to support workers trying to unionize at Jasic Technology, a welding machinery manufacturer. As the students organized demonstrations and created a social media campaign, police raided an apartment where 50 activists were staying. Most of the detained activists were sent home without their cell phones and kept under surveillance, Reuters reported at the time.

While the Chinese government claims to espouse Marxist ideology, ever since the 1989 pro-democracy protests, it has clamped down on student activism. This school year, Peking University (PKU) banned the student Marxist society from registering as an official club, and installed Qiu Shuiping, a former state security official, as the party secretary of PKU. Renmin University in Beijing and Nanjing University also punished labor activists on campus. 

One student missing since August, Yue Xin, is a member of PKU’s Marxist society. In April Yue wrote an open letter to the school’s administration demanding information regarding a sexual harassment and suicide case from the 1990s. After school officials tried to harass and censor her, they finally allowed Yue to finish the school year as her story gained traction on Chinese social media. But after graduation, Yue helped organize the protests in Huizhou, leading to her arrest. Today no one, including her family, knows where she is.

At PKU, students created a student group called “Looking for the Moon” to raise awareness about Yue’s disappearance, as well as that of student activist Gu Jiayue (both of their names include a Chinese homophone for “moon”). The group handed out flyers on campus and created a WeChat group discussing how to help the two students, according to SupChina.

Two weeks ago, a group of unidentified men on the PKU campus grabbed two recent grads who were involved in the Jasic protests and stuffed them into a car. Authorities forced witnesses to delete any photos or videos of the scene. One witness who posted videos and essays about the kidnapping, Yu Tianfu, has also disappeared. Censors shut down the Look for the Moon WeChat groups, although students recreated them under a new name.

In an open letter, the activists wrote that they would continue to seek justice for the persecuted students: “We can’t let those who collected firewood for others be frozen to death in the snow, and we can’t let those who created the path of freedom be trapped in the thorns.”

Umbrella Nine: This week nine leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests will stand trial. In a sign of the deterioration of Hong Kong’s civil liberties, the group faces three rare colonial-era criminal provisions against causing a “public nuisance.”