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: August 24, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Other

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 24, 2018, Chinese authorities reportedly detained fifty student activists from various institutions in apparent retaliation for demanding the establishment of an independent trade union for Jasic Technology factory workers.

Fifty student activists from various institutions, including Peking University, Nanjing University, and Renmin University, had traveled to Shenzhen to advocate for the establishment of an independent trade union to support the efforts of Jasic Technology factory workers. Beginning in July 2018, the workers had experienced beating, dismissals, and arrests in apparent retaliation for participating in protests demanding better wages, working conditions, and the right to unionize. Since coming to Shenzhen in the beginning of August, the student activists created videos of speeches and protests in front of the factory, wore t-shirts with the slogan “unity is power,” and published letters and photos, which they widely circulated on social media.

At 5:00 am on August 24, police in riot gear reportedly raided the apartment in Huizhou where the fifty students and five workers were staying. Video footage shows the police forcefully clashing with the students with their riot shields. The police detained all fifty students and five workers and held them in an undisclosed location. On August 25, some of the students were reportedly released and escorted home by police. The students were then put under police surveillance and police confiscated their computers, telephones, and other electronic devices. As of this report, the location and well-being of the remaining detained students is unknown.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary and incommunicado detention of students in apparent retaliation for peaceful student expression and freedom of association—rights that are 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.