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: November 09, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Nanjing University | Peking University | Renmin University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Beginning on November 9, 2018, Chinese authorities reportedly detained at least 9 recent graduates of Chinese universities in apparent retaliation for their activism supporting factory workers.

In August 2018, student activists launched Jasic Workers Support Group (JWSG), a solidarity initiative with factory workers at Jasic Technology aimed at establishing an independent trade union and protesting the alleged mistreatment of the factory workers. That same month, fifty JWSG members traveled to Shenzhen to protest with the Jasic Technology workers. On August 24, police detained all fifty students. Many of the students were released after a few days while others are still reportedly in custody (see report)

On November 9, approximately ten suspected police officers reportedly raided Peking University’s (PKU) campus. According to students on the scene, the officers spotted Zhang Shengye, a PKU alumnus and member of JWSG, used violent force to apprehend him, and forced him into an unmarked vehicle. The student witnesses, who were taking videos and photos of the operation, reported that officers assaulted them and forced them to delete the images from their phones. PKU issued a statement describing the incident as a “police department…lawfully taking into custody a criminal suspect…who is not a current student, teacher or employee of the school.”

Police reportedly carried out similar raids and detention operations targeting another 8 JWSG members, all recent graduates of prestigious Chinese universities, as well as a number of Jasic Technology workers. The alumni include Wu Jiawei, He Pengchao, Wang Xiangyi, Zheng Yiran, Lu Daxing, Li Xiaoxian, Sun Min, and Zong Yang.

As of this report, only Wu Jiawei has been released. Authorities have not publicly disclosed the whereabouts or any potential charges against the other alumni activists.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force and arbitrary and incommunicado detention of student-activists in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to 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. 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.