Peking University to Start Screening Students for “Radical Thoughts?”

 

PKU's library near the West Gate, which I walked by nearly every day during my stay there last year

I found a link this morning on rudenoon’s China blog to this article in the Guardian about a forthcoming new policy by Peking University to screen and identify “students with radical thoughts, psychological fragility, poverty, registration changes, eccentricity, Internet addiction, job difficulties, serious illnesses, and discipline violations.”

 

PKU’s official announcement on the program explains that they intend to implement “consultations” with students in these categories regarding problems in academic performance. In essence, the announcement attempts to frame the new policy as a mental health provision. I should point out that mental health services are one of the several aspects of student life, so common on American campuses, which are routinely–if not always–ignored on Chinese campuses. It certainly goes almost completely unaddressed  at Peking University–I had students in my class last year complain to me several times that there was no one whom they could go to on campus to talk about the pressure and stress they were dealing with.

The announcement on the new policy is quite–and probably deliberately–vague. However, I agree with the Guardian that this specific targeting of non-mainstream political opinions is really scary. PKU is known as a particularly liberal and reform-minded university. I would even argue that the school allows more intellectual freedom and forward thinking than nearly any other institution in the country.

Whether this month’s protests have really been wide enough in scale to merit being called China’s own “Jasmine Revolution,” the scope of the government’s paranoid reaction to them seems to be expanding. Harassment and detainment of journalists is now being supplemented by preemtive screening and singling out of students thought to be politically dissatisfied. Though I argued earlier this week that Beijing has effectively kept a tight leash on political dissent thus far, the leadership is clearly scared of what’s been happening in the last month. It’s anyone’s guess, however, how much they’ll be willing to tighten the noose this time.

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2 Responses to “Peking University to Start Screening Students for “Radical Thoughts?””

  1. John Says:

    I was actually just there less than a week ago with a friend of mine who used to attend PKU. They said the same thing about measures to control “radical” students, which is indeed quite frightening. I have also heard that China has been spying on its students overseas, although this seems like an uphill battle to me. With so many Chinese studying abroad these days, such tight control of elite domestic institutions seems rather useless.

  2. Mr. Evan Says:

    That’s interesting, John–I have not reached out to my friends at PKU yet, but I would be very curious to hear what kind of a splash this policy is making on campus. Are students aware of it?

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