Students continue to back workers in dispute over trade union rights
China’s most prestigious university has threatened to shut down its student Marxist society amid a continuing police crackdown on students who support workers in a dispute over trade union organisation. Under China’s Communist party, Marxism has been part of the compulsory university curriculum for decades. But universities are now under pressure to embrace “Xi Jinping thought” as the president strengthens his ideological control over the nation. The government is also inspecting primary and secondary school textbooks to remove foreign content. Peking University’s Marxist Society was not able to re-register for the new academic year because it did not have the backing required from teachers, the society said. “Everyone can see what the Peking University Marxist Society has done over the past few years to speak out for marginalised groups on campus,” it added. The threat to close the society follows a summer of student and worker unrest in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzhen. Students from Peking and other elite Chinese universities were detained for supporting workers trying to organise a trade union at a Jasic Technology factory. While workers’ protests have become more common in China, the support of a small yet growing student movement has made the Jasic protests politically sensitive. Zhan Zhenzhen, a member of the Marxist Society at Peking University, was among those arrested in Shenzhen last month. In July, police detained about 30 workers in the biggest such arrest since 2015. In August, police wearing riot gear stormed a student dormitory and took away about 40 students who had been supporting the workers, according to witnesses. Recommended Jamil Anderlini China is at risk of becoming a colonialist power Mr Zhan and the Marxist Society initiated an investigation into working conditions for low-paid workers at Peking University this year. The group said its focus was labour rights, and it gained media attention in 2015 when it published an earlier working conditions report. The Marxist Society said it had approached teachers in the university’s department of Marxism for support with registration but had been refused, with no explanation. A teacher from another department had volunteered to register the society but said his offer was rejected by the university’s Student Society Committee. The university’s Marxism department did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The Student Society Committee declined to comment. Mr Xi visited Peking University this year to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. “Peking University is the first place to spread and study Marxism in China. It makes a great contribution to the spread of Marxism and the foundation of China’s Communist Party,” he said at the time.
Source: Financial Times