The following is the text of a motion that was unanimously carried at UoN UCU’s Branch Meeting on 13 February 2019.
Solidarity with Chinese workers and students!
This meeting notes that 12 students were arrested in different Chinese universities on November 10 and 11, 2018 because they support the campaign for the freedom and union rights of the workers at Jasic International factory in Huizhou (close to Shenzhen). Workers at Jasic have been sacked and detained in late July 2018 because they attempted to set up a trade union. The workers had collected signatures from about ten percent of the workforce for an application to set up a factory union and had submitted an application for this to the Pingshan district trade union in early June 2018.
Subsequently, on 27 July 2018, 29 workers of Jasic and other companies and some of their supporters were arrested. As a response to this, more than 1000 students from 11 different universities in the PRC signed petitions and statements in support of the Jasic workers. In August 2018, 50 students, many of them from the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing, were arrested for their support of the Jasic workers. Five students of those arrested in August remain in custody. Several university administrations threatened students with expulsion, and demanded that they distance themselves from the solidarity actions. The party committee of Renmin University in Beijing created a list of students ‘under observation’.
This meeting further notes that in response to the events, Cornell University suspended two exchange programs with Renmin University in October 2018. Subsequently, students at various universities were blocked from registering Marxist student societies in the new semester. Students who protested against this at Nanjing University were attacked by campus security and plainclothes policemen on November 1, 2018. In addition, on November 9, 2018 two officials of the state-recognized All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which had assisted the workers at Jasic, were detained. Four workers of Jasic, one NGO worker and ten students remain in police custody or are under domestic arrest.
The University of Nottingham was the first British university to set up a campus in the PRC. We welcome the increase of contacts with Chinese colleagues that was facilitated by this move, but we see the latest developments with distress and deep concern.
We think that we as academics have a particular responsibility to speak out when academic freedom is in question, all the more so if our colleagues, or students, are detained for exercising basic rights. We do not in any way pretend that workers’ and students’ rights are violated only in the PRC. That said, we find the broad repression against workers and academics currently unfolding in the PRC egregious, and believe that it calls for a public response.
Therefore, this meeting resolves to write a public letter to the VC Prof. Shearer West and demand the issue of a public statement affirming the right to form unions, academic freedom and freedom of speech in the PRC, and expressing particular concern about the detention of Jasic workers and their supporters in various universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan.