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: April 29, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Peking University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | China

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 29, 2019, police and security guards reportedly detained Shen Yuxuan, a Peking University (PKU) student, in apparent retaliation for her association with an initiative supporting factory workers.

Shen, a student activist reportedly associated with PKU’s Marxist Society, has been engaged with a widespread effort at prominent Chinese universities, launched in August 2018 and known as the Jasic Workers Support Group (JWSG), aimed at supporting the efforts of factory workers at Jasic Technology Company, in Shenzhen, to establish an independent trade union and protest alleged abuses by management. The month it was established, fifty JWSG members were detained in Shenzhen during solidarity protests with the Jasic Technology workers. While many of the students were released after a few days, some are still reportedly in custody (see report). On November 9, police officers detained at least nine student activists (see report), and seven more on January 21, 2019 (see report).

On April 29 at PKU, Shen told a friend that she was being harassed by police officers and security guards. Shen reportedly went to the bathroom to hide, when several police officers broke in and took her into custody. Shen’s phone has since been switched off, and information regarding her whereabouts or any charges against her is unavailable as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a student activist in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right 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 victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.