Party Worries Reflected in Beatings of Marxist Students

Just saw this posted today. A recounting of Party/Peking University staff/police abuse of students in the Peking University Marxist Society that was closed down late last year. A November 2018 Hong Kong Free Press report “Too Marxist for China? Radical students rattle Communist leaders” discussed the Chinese student Marxists.

Hong Kong Baptist Department of Journalism Professor Yiu Ming To 杜耀明 quote criticizing people who ignore Marx’s concerns for social justice and merely focus on his theory of surplus value, saying that is a great insult to Karl Marx.

The tone changed from a description to a diagnosis of the problem:

“The organized machinery of state doesn’t care at all whether it speak truth or lies. It doesn’t care at all about the harm that it does to our classmates. Even more, it doesn’t care whether its behavior violates the law or not. The logic of social stability coming before all else, what counts is whether a policy is executed forcefully or not. What counts most on this one hundredth anniversary of the May Fourth Movement is whether or not there still exist some disharmonious voices.”

Then a quote from Lu Xun’s preface to that famed Chinese twentieth century essayist’s (pre-1949 social critic much beloved by the Party — lucky for him he didn’t live to see the PRC or his pen would have got him into trouble fast with Chairman Mao!) preface to his book Weeds 野草 usually translated (more polite than me I guess) as Wild Grass.

I love my weeds, but I hate weeds all over the ground is made out to be a decoration. The fire runs underground, rushing forward; once the lava erupts, it will burn all the weeds and all the trees so that there will be no decay.”

[ Parenthetically, talk of weeds brings to mind the famous words of that old philosopher, Chairman Mao Zedong! Mao in his “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” had quite a bit to say about weeds, some of whom were stinking intellectuals:

Literally the two slogans — let a hundred flowers blossom and let a hundred schools of thought contend — have no class character; the proletariat can turn them to account, and so can the bourgeoisie or others. Different classes, strata and social groups each have their own views on what are fragrant flowers and what are poisonous weeds. Then, from the point of view of the masses, what should be the criteria today for distinguishing fragrant flowers from poisonous weeds? In their political activities, how should our people judge whether a person’s words and deeds are right or wrong?”  ]

The article ends with a question and an answer. What kind of young people does today’s China need? The answer:

When they see decay, they must arise. What does it matter if along the way some dust flies around? Crisis is all around. Malicious flying bullets and the spewing of dark currents will not stop them because in their hearts are always new things.

The Chinese Communist Party has been bracing for a difficult year.

1984 Peking University Style—How Much Do You Know About It?

The morning of April 29, 2019.

Beijing’s Yizhuang Industrial Zone, Beijing.

Five young people disappeared there.

At 8:17 They sent their last message. Within half an hour, everyone’s phone was turned off.

They were five students who had belonged to the Peking University Marxist Association. They were taking advantage of the May First Labor Day holiday to spent the holiday working in a factory. At 8 AM the night shift had just ended.

What had happened to them up to that point?

Five plainclothesmen had been following Qiu Zhanxuan

They had sent a message the night before and said that the plainclothes policemen followed them from Peking University to Yizhuang, followed them into the factory, followed them up the manager’s office, and informed the factory supervisors in the factory that the students should be “watched closely”.

Plainclothesman, being followed, disappeared. Just the way it has happened before.

At the same time, contact as lost with one of their schoolmates, Shen Yuxuan of the Peking University Medical Department.

Screenshot from Shen Yuxuan’s WeChat account
“They pulled me out of the toilet”
“Tearing up stuff”
Restriction of personal freedom
Pulled out of the toilet?
Who pulled you out?

The night before, as usual, she and another classmate studied in the fourth classroom of Biochemistry Building.

At about 10:30, a few familiar faces appeared at the door of the classroom. They shutter of their camera clicked a few times as they took pictures of Shen. Then six or seven “teachers” from the Beijing University Medical School Security Office, security guards and two policemen pushed open the door and entered the room.

They told the other students to leave and went straight up to where Shen was sitting and said, “Are you going to get up? Will you walk or do we have to take you away?” They had no reason for telling the students to leave, so two students refused to leave.

Suddenly, a classmate was grabbed by the neck, pulled out of their seat, and with two arms twisted behind his back pushed as police forced him into a police car. He was punched and kicked. “Do you want some help?” he was asked as a policeman poured mineral water on him.

Then came the policeman’s usual technique: grab by the neck, cover the mouth, arms tied behind their back, and escort them to the security office. Using both carrot and stick methods, they beat, insulted, ridiculed this student until two o’clock the following morning.

Meanwhile, Shen Yuxuan sent this message to his to his WeChat group at 11:30:

Shen Yuxuan WeChat screenshot
“Being interviewed by police, they have to accompany me to the toilet”
“I threw up.”

I really couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine that scene. That evening I could only wait and worry.

At 2:20 in the morning, Shen Yuxuan classmates regained her freedom. It was said that this sudden assault was connected to the matter of the five students working in Yizhuang.

“If you dare to go out the school gate, you will be picked up right away!” This is the warning Shen Yuxuan got. And her mother, who had been called by the police from her hometown in Shaanxi Province, was told to watch her all night in her dormitory.

Even after all that had happened, everybody sighed and that thought that will be the end of it.

I never expected the same thing to happen again the next morning. Shen Yuxuan’s phone went from no answer to being turned off. No more was heard from her.

I was still anxious.

At three o’clock that afternoon, the students finally called her mother’s phone. She said, “I am with Shen Yuxuan somewhere in Beijing. I can’t tell you where” she said cryptically.

Shen’s mother said, “Yuxuan is fine.” The next thing we heard was Yuxuan yelling, “No, I am not fine. I am under house arrest!”

The classmates listening were shocked. Before they could say anything, the connection was cut off.

We tried to call again, but the telephone was turned off. We have had no news of her since then.

This was Peking University on April 29.

Make no mistake about it. This is not the plot of some 1920s novel. This is only one of the undercurrents that continues to surge through the Peking University campus, only to finally erupt at sensitive times like these.

The colors of Peking University today are black and white. Black and white are starker than color. There is more magical realism here today than in any movie.

While their classmates live a normal student life of going to class, studying and taking examinations, some other students are living a completely different life. In their life, some of their parents are nearly collapsed from mental exhaustion; other students face frequent interviews and even sexual harassment; some police remove all your clothes to search you; and threaten them with expulsion or handcuffs to make them confess.

Since since the demonstration of December 28 protesting the re-organization of the Peking University Marxist Society, their voices have not been head on the Peking University campus. Sometimes one might hear news about them online such as “Zhang Zhenzhen was forced to leave school” but there has been no real news. As far as I know, the “news blackout” on them did not mean that these students are no longer interested in the rights of people who work at their school. No, what is going on is not they have decided to end using the “weapon of criticism” but a fact that is hard for anyone to accept. They have been subject to pressure and restrictions on their personal freedom that go far beyond what anyone could have imagined.

On January 23, classmate A, after over 40 hours of exhausting police station detention and fatigue trial, was sent home and his cell phone, computer and ID card confiscated. HIs home internet connection was cut. His parents’ phone was monitored and he had to report whenever he left the house. This classmate was completely cutoff from the outside world. All this was done to lay the groundwork for the the next stage of high pressure and intense “ideological and political education”.

The police told her “If you don’t admit to your errors, you will be forced to leave school.” We can say that is was because “It can be because you are an unwed mother or because you are an unsociable, dark-hearted individual who hates society. Your choice!” Not until the second week of school was classmate A released from house arrest and allowed to return to school. Classmate A had already missed the two weeks for choosing compulsory courses. Another classmate B missed a make-up test. Perhaps it is just as a certain deputy party secretary in the sociology department says, “Cooperating with the work of the school is your first task, not academic work.”

After returning to school, the secretary of the Youth League Committee kindly student A: “Don’t get in touch with your old Marxist Society classmates. Don’t eat with them. They may try to drug you. Once you take it, you’ll be brainwashed.” This same secretary on the evening of April 3, persistently kept interrogating student A about the lives of the other female members of the former Marxist Society. He said that the reason that he had not gone to her dormitory to get her at the time of the December 28th demonstration was that he “was afraid that some of them are just too pretty and he wouldn’t be able to control himself.”

Those kinds of insults and slander are small stuff. There was more. There is also a classmate C. When the police and school counselor went together to her home, and told her parents that if she did not admit to her mistakes, she would be expelled and detained, her mother was so frightened that she broke down and knelt before student C and banged her head against the wall. Classmate C, heartbroken, could only tell her mother over and over that she had not done anything wrong.

In late February, once the new semester had begun, I thought that it was all over. But the classmates found, once school started again that what had come before was just an appetizer.

Two or three days after class started, a police officer appeared who claimed to have been entrusted by the school’s party committee to have a talk with classmate D. He was blunt. “If you are part of the ruling class you have to be able to deceive the masses”; “The capital needed to maintain social stability without deceiving the masses is too high.” Those words were shocking enough. However, the things that the police and school worker did over the next few days are too numerous to record:

Some students were held at the Yanyuan police station for up to eight hours. Several police took turns beating them in turn until their noses were bleeding.

Some students were asked to read in a loud voice the regulations on subversion and incitement to subversion in the criminal law. The police said, “This is your crime!”

After a few hours of constant interrogation, some students, with two people behind them pressing the pen into their hand, were asked to write a letters giving up their right to an education and assuming all legal responsibility and told that they could go if they signed.

Some students were stripped naked and made to lean over in order to check that “there is no recording device inside”;

The police threatened some students with “Whether you can go to school is a matter for the school to decide. We get to decide whether you can go to school.” Also, “Do not think that you can get the kind of job that your parents have.”

Some students were dragged out of class by three people from the political management building to Sciences Building No. 5 during the class. Sometimes the dragging process itself dragged on for a full hour;


Do you want to go to class? Do you want to go back to your dormitory to rest? Do you want to stay in school? Do you want to be released? We can do that. But first of all, you have to give up your human dignity, cooperate with our work, admit to your mistakes, and not take an interest in “things that are none of your business” then you can “get back on the right track”. If you wont, then I’m sorry, we can humiliate you, we can restrict your personal freedom, violate your privacy, insult your ideals and abuse you physically. Naturally, to use the words of the police, that is just fine. Once you leave the school gate, “we are sure that you don’t want to feel that you are in a detention center.”

Perhaps you think that this is a dead end. The police and school workers think that they have achieved a master stroke in ideological warfare. After all, in a physical assault is not the best tactic; psychological warfare should be your first resort. [Note: from classic novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms “Use your forces to attack their minds as your first resort; a physical assault is inferior. Psychological warfare should be primary, using military force should be secondary. 用兵攻心为上,攻城为下;心战为上,兵战为下 inspired by Sun Zi, Art of War (Therefore the best method is trickery, the second best is making a deal, the third best is fighting their soldiers in the field and the worst of all is an assault on a fortress. 故上兵伐谋,其次伐交,其次伐兵,其下攻城) ]

Three classmates from the School of Physical Sciences often got letters from the party secretary of their school’s party committee. Sometimes the letters were written to all three, sometimes the letters were written to them individually and sometimes to the entire school (you may have gotten it too). The letters cover topics such as historical, theoretical issues and sometimes issues in everyday life. The shorter letters were just four or five hundred characters, the longer ones could be two or three thousand characters long. All the letters came back to a single central point “the state is good and society is fine”. Now might the party secretary sending these letters to all the students in the school be an abuse of his authority as secretary of the party committee?

At an undergraduate party branch democratic life meeting, classmate E as attacked from all sides for belonging to “a two-faced faction”. All party members on his “democracy evaluation” form marked “fail”. All sixteen of them. Classmate E was speechless at this highly organized attack. Thinking about it, he could only draw one conclusion — he had spent too much time talking with the school’s workers. Doing that was not consistent with his status as a candidate for Communist Party membership. That afternoon at 1 PM two police officers appeared and prevented him from going back to his dormitory. They had had a talk with him all night. Classmate E tried twice to escape. The first time he was pined against the wall. The second time they grabbed him by the neck and forced him down on the floor. At 2 PM, some students came to see classmate E. They had heard his shouts coming from the the side of the main entrance to the department building. The undergraduate party branch secretary guarded the door and called the police in an attempt to force the students to drive the students away. They only left a little after 3 PM at the urgent request of classmate E. The Party strictly implemented this locale for handling party organizational matters. It became too a stage for the arbitrary actions of some leaders who carried out this kind of criticism and self-criticism!

There are many similar examples, but what is more suffocating is the daily tracking, monitoring, photographing, and harassment. Some students are warned that they are not allowed to use their mobile phones during class, telling them they should be studying hard (why don’t they say that when they have meetings with people for being late to class?) Several classmates after studying on their own for a few days in the self-study area next to the fifth floor elevator of building three, were shocked to discover that the monitoring camera that had been pointing at the elevator had been turned 180 degrees to point directly at them. Some other classmates found that the camera at the intersection in front of the express delivery service would gradually swivel to watch them as they walked by. If they walked back and forth, the camera followed them (advanced facial recognition is used here). Even if you get up early for running practice to get ready for the May Fourth Marathon and then to to the farm to have breakfast, there are plainclothesmen taking pictures to send to your parents as evidence that “those people are still having their gatherings”.

Two months later, the dark undercurrents finally, defying all common sense and expectation, erupted from the ground.

On April 29th, the nodes from which those dark undercurrents emerged were significant.

Two days later, would come for all workers throughout China will be their very own holiday, even though for most of them will have no alternative to spending it working overtime.

Five days later would come for young people across China, and in particular the teachers and students of Peking University, their very own holiday. The various news outlets, however, would devote it to speeches at big meetings and “Political-Ideological Face to Face” interviews.

What do these holidays mean?

Labor Day celebrate the glory of labor. On this date in history, the world’s workers united to fight for their own labor rights;

Youth Day celebrates the awakening of youth. The New Youth sought Democracy and Science. Hand-in-hand with the masses, they braved the hardships of reform;

Amidst these fine festivals, there is no place for young people who sought part-time work. They used to carry aloft the banner of “Marxism” at their school.

This black humor, full of irony as it is, tells us something.

The organized machinery of state doesn’t care at all whether it speak truth or lies. It doesn’t care at all about the harm that it does to our classmates. Even more, it doesn’t care whether its behavior violates the law or not. The logic of social stability coming before all else, what counts is whether a policy is executed forcefully or not. What counts most on this one hundredth anniversary of the May Fourth Movement is whether or not there still exist some disharmonious voices.

A former Peking University classmate who has already made Peking University’s internal blacklist (there certainly is a blacklist. Over thirty names are on it) is merely one of the victims of this logic. He is not the only victim.

Don’t you see, the atmosphere on this campus has already become much worse than it was even one year ago. These days, the loudest voice in the cafeteria is the rumble of the broadcast of the “Ideology and Politics Face-to-Face” interviews.

No need to ask anymore what is the kind of time we live in. The answer I want to give is what kind of youth this era needs:

“I love my weeds, but I hate weeds all over the ground is made out to be a decoration. The fire runs underground, rushing forward; once the lava erupts, it will burn all the weeds and all the trees so that there will be no decay.”

When they see decay, they must arise. What does it matter if along the way some dust flies around? Crisis is all around. Malicious flying bullets and the spewing of dark currents will not stop them because in their hearts are always new things.


May 01, 2019

















































一次本科生党支部民主生活会,E同学遭到围攻,被骂“两面派“,他的“民主测评“表上所有党员都投了不合格 ,那可是16个人啊……这高度组织化的针对让E同学无言以对,想来想去,结论只能是一个--跟学校的工友们聊得太多了,不符合自己的预备党员身份。当晚一点多开完会两名警察进来阻止E同学回宿舍,要连夜约谈。E同学两次试图逃出去,一次被按在墙上,一次被卡脖子按倒在地。两点多有同学过来看E同学,隔着系楼大门都听到里面的呼喊声,而本科生党支部书记守在门口,报警试图把那个同学赶走。一直到三点多在E同学的强烈要求下,才得以离开。党进行严肃的组织生活的场所,也成了某些领导为所欲为的舞台,进行的就是这样的批评与自我批评!

















About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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1 Response to Party Worries Reflected in Beatings of Marxist Students

  1. Pingback: CCP Aggressively Guards Claim to May 4th Legacy | | TimesDirect.TV

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