Human rights in China

Peking University students clash with campus guards over control of Marxist Society

  • Witnesses say some protesters were injured as they were forced to go inside science building
  • University announced new committee will run the group after its chairman was detained and warned over Mao Zedong anniversary event
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 10:18pm

A dozen Peking University students clashed with guards on Friday as they protested over a change to the Marxist Society that was imposed after it organised an event to mark the 125th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth.

Witnesses said the students held placards near a science building at the campus in Beijing as they protested against the decision to install a new committee to run the society.

They said the students had locked arms during the peaceful protest but some were injured when security guards forced them to go into the building, manhandling and in some cases carrying them inside.

“Several of them were pushed to the ground and suffered cuts to their hands and some had their glasses broken in the struggle,” according to one witness.

At least eight of the students were still inside the building on Friday evening, according to a source.

Among the protesters taken inside by guards was Qiu Zhanxuan, chairman of the society. Qiu was not reachable on Friday night.

On Wednesday, Qiu was taken away by plain-clothes police ahead of an event he had arranged to commemorate the Mao anniversary. He was released the following day with a warning.

But a notice also appeared on the university’s online bulletin board on Thursday announcing that a new 32-member committee had been put in place to run the student Marxist Society.

The notice was issued by the university’s extracurricular activities office on behalf of Sun Guoxi, the academic in charge of the society.

It said the reshuffle was needed because society members had “severely deviated” from promises made when they registered and had repeatedly organised activities that violated regulations. It added that Qiu was “not qualified to lead [the society]”.

Chinese campus crackdown on young Marxist activists expands in major cities

The young protesters have vowed to fight the change, which they said would force them underground.

“We are deeply shocked and angered by such an absurd scene happening on the campus of Peking University,” read a petition letter posted online on Friday and signed by about 30 students.

“This is a clear move to place the Marxist Society under the control of campus bureaucrats.”

Ning Yue, a PhD student majoring in Marxism, will lead the society as director general, with Ma Ning, a postgraduate Marxism student, as director, according to the notice.

But the protesters said both Ning and Ma were new to the society.

The university’s campus security could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Why Beijing isn’t Marxist enough for China’s radical millennials

In the past six months, authorities have widened a crackdown against nascent grass-roots activism on university campuses led by young Marxists.

Last month, more than 20 labour activists and young Marxists who were recent graduates from top universities were arrested. Their actions, which began in July in Shenzhen, were limited in scale but were seen by China watchers as a sign of rising left-leaning social activism in China.

In recent years, Marxism has inspired a growing number of young activists appalled by China’s poor protection of workers, rampant corruption and widening wealth gap. These activists have taken steps to speak up on social issues such as labour and farmers’ rights as well as income inequality.