China: Thousands of college students in Nanjing city clash with police

Authorities nervous in lead up to Tiananmen 1989 massacre

Thousands of students fought with police in the southern Chinese city of Nanjing after the city’ s administration officers beat up student vendors. The incident occurred on Monday evening, 18 May, at a time of high alert for the ‘communist’ authorities ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4th Massacre – the events in Tiananmen 1989. Five students, including one female student from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, were reportedly beaten up by Nanjing City Management [Bureau], trying to clear the area in front of the university. This led to a street-blocking demonstration by thousands of students from that university. A bloody clash between thousands of students and riot police reportedly ensued, continuing into Tuesday morning. Thirty students were injured, and one police car was smashed up. The police station in Nanjing’s Jiangning Development Zone and the security office at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics confirmed the incident for the Infirmation Centre for Human Rights in Hong Kong.

According to ICHR, on Monday evening, five students were selling wares (a common way to raise money for costly higher education) in the Jiangning campus area of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, when they were hit and injured by City Management [i.e. personnel of the City Management and Law Enforcement Bureau]. One of the students was a woman. The incident led college students whose grievances against the City Management [Bureau] had been accumulating for a long time to charge out the campus gate and into the street to demonstrate. Thousands of college students held up signs and shouted slogans. Jiangjun Road at the entrance to Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Shengtai Road were blocked so tightly nothing could get through. Until 8pm, the students put up more and more protest banners. During this time a police car injured a student, and three students were taken away by Public Security, angering students. Several thousand students began charging a human wall formed by riot police, and a bloody clash with the police ensued in which 30 students were injured and one police car was destroyed. The demonstration continued until early Tuesday morning, breaking up at 1am. The police station in Nanjing’s Jiangning Development Zone confirmed that a major demonstration by students took place.

Aggressive police

The entire incident seems to have been provoked by aggressive tactics from both the City Management Bureau and, later, by the police. Photographs posted on the internet and published in the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) show student protesters holding up placards in English as well as Chinese with the slogan, ‘Non-violent and non-cooperation’, inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.

Underlining just how sensitive student protests are in this pre-June 4th period, leaders of the provincial government arrived at the university on Tuesday, to insure the protests are nipped in the bud. Students said that all of the professors have been mobilised to do student work and prevent another street demonstration. As many as a hundred riot police personnel were standing by at the entrance to the university. This was the second incident of public student unrest in less than ten days in China. On 7 May, hundreds of students at Zhejiang University staged a demonstration along the roads of Hangzhou following the killing of a fellow student by a speeding driver. The incident attracted huge interest on the internet. While the trigger for these incidents does not at first sight appear to be political, both cases show the tense situation that exists on campuses across China as university costs soar, burdening many families with years of indebtedness, while job prospects for graduates are evaporating as a result of the severe economic crisis.

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May 2009