On November 1, 2018, police officers and unidentified individuals reportedly assaulted two student members of a Marxist group at Nanjing University (NJU) during a nonviolent protest.
Yang Kai and Zhu Shunqing organized a protest against the university’s refusal to recognize their on-campus Marxist student society. At least one hundred students participated. According to video footage and witnesses, unidentified men reportedly shoved and dragged Yang on the ground, before police took him into custody and detained him for more than four hours. Police officers reportedly assaulted Zhu as well; but did not detain him. On November 2, Zhu’s relatives reportedly forcibly took Zhu from NJU’s campus in apparent retaliation for his participation in the protest. Witnesses report his relatives “pushing and shoving and taking him away” against his will. Students report Chinese authorities have been known to involve and pressure relatives of student activists to stop them from further participation in protests. As of this report, Zhu’s whereabouts are unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force, detention, and the forcible removal from campus of students in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of association — 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. While state authorities have a right to maintain security and order, that does not include the use of force, detention, or forcible removal from campus in retaliation for nonviolent protest activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.