Protests at Nanjing Normal University
Student protests erupted on Sunday at the Zhongbei campus of Nanjing Normal University as well as several other colleges in Jiangsu province after it was announced that students’ degrees would be downgraded from a regular bachelor’s degree to a vocational degree due to a planned merger with a vocational school. After realizing they had been misled about the implications of the merger, students turned out in huge numbers to protest the change. Videos of violent suppression by police have been circulating on domestic and international social media, with a crackdown on Weibo leading to many posts and videos disappearing. In response to the protests, all six colleges that were planning to participate in the merger have suspended their plans.
According to posts and videos on social media, students at the Zhongbei campus were trapped on campus, where they were surrounded by police officers, who used batons and pepper spray against the protesters. In one video, police can be seen surrounding protesters, dragging protesters at the perimeter of the crowd away and onto a police bus one at a time.
According to a police statement, students abducted the dean of the college and held him for 30 hours. Faced with uncooperative students “joining together in hurling expletives,” the police took “necessary measures to free the trapped individual.” However, some contend that the supposed kidnapping was merely an excuse to crack down on the protesters, with photos of the dean, purportedly sitting with protesters of his own volition, circulated online. Neither version of events could be independently verified.
Students online reacted with shock at what they described as police brutality, as well as concerns that images of the protests would be used as a propaganda tool by western media. “Be careful! The worldwide Internet already has edited clips of people being hit out there,” read one post. “Be sure to throw in some party-loving, country-loving words.” Another post read, “Is this 21st century China? Students are just protecting their fair rights. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was Hong Kong loser kids making a racket.”