SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 26, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Peking University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 26, 2018, authorities reportedly detained Qiu Zhanxuan, a student activist from Peking University (PKU), in apparent retaliation for his political activism.

Qiu is the head of the Peking University Marxist Society and was the organizer of a memorial for the 125th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birthday. The day before the memorial was planned, PKU’s administration allegedly warned Qiu not to about hold it. On December 26, police reportedly picked Qiu up while he was on his way to the memorial, and forced him into a car parked near the gate of PKU’s campus. They released Qiu the following day with a warning.

This incident comes after the detention of at least nine recent graduates of Chinese universities, including PKU, in apparent retaliation for their activism supporting factory workers (see report) and an assault by police against two student members of a Marxist group at Nanjing University (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force and detention of a student -activist in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of association, and academic freedom — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. State authorities must refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.