A Campaign of Suppression on Chinese Campuses Ensnares Young Communists

A Campaign of Suppression on Chinese Campuses Ensnares Young Communists
College students enter the main gate of Peking University in Beijing, July 13, 2018 (Photo by Su Weizhong for Imaginechina via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it.

On Monday, Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations suspended two exchange programs with Beijing-based Renmin University after students there were punished for their labor rights activism. According to the Financial Times, it is the first case in years of a foreign university suspending ties with a Chinese counterpart due to concerns over academic freedom. Renmin students faced various forms of punishment—including surveillance and threats of suspension—after they participated in labor protests this summer at the welding machinery firm Jasic Technology and other factories in the southern Chinese city of Huizhou.

The dispute comes as the Chinese Communist Party seeks to tighten its control over the country’s higher education system. Last week, the Ministry of Education announced the appointment of Qui Shuiping as party secretary of Peking University. The party secretary at publicly funded Chinese universities is generally viewed as more powerful than the president, and is appointed by the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Qiu previously served as head of the national spy agency’s Beijing branch, and most recently as a high court judge in the northern province of Shanxi. He will now lead one of China’s most prestigious universities in what some analysts see as a “broader ideological hardening” at academic institutions under President Xi Jinping.

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