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Police Respond to Student Protests with Violent Crackdown

After the educational authorities told independent colleges in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces about China’s intention that they merge with vocational institutes to form a “vocational and technical college,” unhappy students from several schools staged demonstrations and lodged protests on campus. Some petitioned at the education department of the provincial governments. The police responded with a violent crackdown; some students were beaten and some were arrested. After the outbreak, the local government called a halt to the merger.

The cause of the student’s demonstrations was the Ministry of Education’s mandate to merge independent colleges and vocational institutes into vocational and technical colleges. Because the vocational institutes or colleges are viewed as less prestigious, students from independent colleges fear their degrees will be devalued after the merger.

Some students petitioned at the Department of Education at the Jiangsu Provincial government last Saturday, before the riot police forcibly dragged them into buses. Several thousand students from Xinglin College of Nantong University, Zhijiang College of Zhejiang University of Technology, and Zhongbei College of Nanjing Normal University, have also protested on campus.

The videos circulated online show that a large number of police surrounded the campus. Some students were dragged away, while some were badly beaten. A student from Zhongbei College posted that the school, instead of responding to students’ requests, sent police to block the campus and prevent students and parents from entering and exiting. The student said, “There have been bloody incidents of violent law enforcement in which students on campus were injured.”

One student explained in a post that what they opposed was not the merger, but the downgrading of the college. They worked through the college entrance exam and paid the expensive tuition in order to earn a bachelor’s degree only to see the college downgraded to a vocational school at graduation. This could affect their future if they attend graduate school or it could affect their career in public service.

After the clash between the police and the students, the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province and Jiangsu Province announced a complete suspension of the merger, stressing that they “will seriously listen to the opinions and suggestions from the students and faculty of the independent colleges.”

In mainland China, an independent college is a joint venture between government operated universities and the private sector. Although the tuition fee is three or four times higher than normal universities, they are popular among some students because of the low admission standards and the mention of the university on the graduation certificate. The Ministry of Education issued a notice last year, demanding all independent colleges to make a plan to end the venture. They can either switch to a pure private or public college, or simply terminate operation.

Source: Radio Free Asia, June 8, 2021