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Zhejiang University in Hangzhou is being criticised for its handling of a student who was sentenced for the crime of rape but was still allowed to continue on campus “under the university’s observation”. Photo: Handout

Chinese university reviews controversial decision to allow rapist to stay on campus ‘under observation’

  • Online fury is directed at esteemed Zhejiang University after a student pleads guilty to rape and is sentenced but escapes suspension or expulsion
  • College argues it kept within its regulations in meting punishment but will launch a follow-up investigation
Phoebe Zhang

A prestigious university in China has announced it will launch an investigation following public fury over its earlier decision to keep a student on campus “under observation” after he pleaded guilty to rape.

“We have launched a follow-up investigation and will punish any behaviour against school principles and laws,” Zhejiang University said on Weibo on Tuesday night.

The student, identified by his surname Nu, was charged with rape, pleaded guilty and was given an 18-month sentence in April with an 18-month reprieve, the university quoted the local Xihu District Court as saying.

Zhejiang University, which is based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, is a top 10 higher educational institute, with more than 100 years of history. As of 2019, it had 57,159 domestic students, 7,131 international students and 9,377 faculty and staff.

On July 14, the university said in a public notice on its website it had decided to keep the student “under observation” on campus for a year as punishment, according to its rules and regulations.

The notice went viral online, with the public furious about the university’s handling of the case. Many compared it with another case that went viral this month, two senior students from Harbin Institute of Technology who were expelled for cheating on a test.

“We suggest that these two students transfer to Zhejiang University, where you don’t even get expelled for rape,” one person wrote on Weibo.

“Heavy punishment is due, otherwise more innocent people will get hurt,” another said.

One source familiar with the matter told local media outlet Cover News that Nu was a senior student supposed to be graduating this summer. After the court issued the charge, Nu had posted about his girlfriend, his graduating photo, food and a bonfire on WeChat, according to a screenshot shared by the source.

The university argued that its previous punishment was in accordance with its regulations, as the court declared that Nu had voluntarily surrendered and confessed to the offence.

According to the Zhejiang University regulations, students who break national laws and are fined or detained should be given a warning by the university and have it marked on their permanent record. Those who are arrested or charged should be either kept under observation or expelled, according to the level of the crime.

But, given the level of public criticism, the explanation offered by the university has not been satisfactory for many, with people questioning on social media whether the university regulations were too lenient.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: University review over student in rape case