At least 10 young activists from elite universities have gone missing in China on Sunday, after taking part in a national campaign for workers’ rights. This appears to be the result of an effort by the government to silence one of the most visible student protests in years.
Around nine young Chinese labour advocates have been forcibly detained in major cities across the country since August. Unidentified men in at least five Chinese cities rounded up the activists. The men beat several activists before pushing them into cars and driving away.
One activist, Zhang Shengye, was ‘kidnapped’ from the campus of Peking University, one of China’s top universities. However, it was not immediately clear what had happened to the activists who went missing in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan.
“They hit him hard and quickly got Zhang under control,” one witness told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The activists, describe themselves as ardent communists. Fervent believers in the ideals of Marx and Mao, they have waged an unusual campaign against inequality and corporate greed. This has gained traction at some of China’s top schools. These activists have become a growing problem for the government in recent years.
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has increasingly cracked down on all forms of dissent, including human rights activists, labour groups and religious organizations.
Activists and analysts have pointed out the irony of the socialist Chinese government, led by the theoretically pro-worker Communist Party, cracking down on young Marxists.
“It’s ironic to see how the students who have been studying and believing in Marxism are rounded up by the Chinese authorities for supporting workers, the fundamental value of Marxism,” said Patrick Poon. He is a researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong. “The students are simply exercising their freedom of expression and showing their solidarity to the workers. They should be immediately released”, he said.
In August, 50 student activists went missing after police raided an apartment where they were staying. Students from Renmin University in Beijing and Nanjing University have also disappeared or been held under house arrest. Three worker activists investigating conditions in a factory making shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand were separately detained in May.
The Jasic Workers Solidarity group said at least two members of an NGO supporting workers in Shenzhen were detained. Along with them, three members of the solidarity group were also detained in the crackdown.
The Jasic Workers Solidarity group has been working with employees of the machine welding company Jasic Technology.