One student who took part in Sunday’s protest, who did not want to be named because of security concerns, said students at OneLeo, an off-campus dormitory in Beijing’s Haidian district, were increasingly frustrated by the restrictions. The main campus or even the hospital. Cafeteria options have become limited, including catering restrictions for minority students and food supplies have been cut off, the student said.
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On Sunday evening, the students discovered the workers by constructing a wall of metal sheets separating the student dormitories from the faculty dormitories, which would allow the faculty to come and go while confined to the student compound. The news spread through a WeChat group. Soon, 200 to 300 students gathered outside the dormitory, and some of them started tearing down the wall while the crowd cheered.
“I never expected the support to be so strong and so many people out there to express their demands,” said the student.
Footage posted online showed students shouting at the university’s vice president. After about two hours, the protest broke out and student representatives continued to meet with university staff until morning.
China is one of the few countries in the world that still adheres to the zero-cue policy through strict lockdowns, mass examinations and restrictions on residents’ freedom of movement. As controls continue to cripple daily life, residents are beginning to lose patience with once-acclaimed government practices.
The protests, though brief and relatively small, carry greater significance for taking place at Peking University, also known as Beida, which played a significant role in previous political movements such as the 1989 student protests that were crushed by the military. In 2018, dozens of PKU students were detained in South China for supporting factory workers trying to form a union.
News of the PKU protest was quickly censored on Chinese social media but not before Internet users were able to view related videos and posts from the students involved. On the microblog Weibo, many praised the team for their bravery, and some mentioned the dormitory fence breaking down the Berlin Wall. Posted excerpts from “The Youth”, a literary magazine started in 1915, calling on young people in China to start an intellectual and cultural movement to revive the country.
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A user on Weibo wrote, “Beida students are really something. “I want to be a Beida student in my next life,” another posted. “It has to be Beida,” wrote one commentator, referring to the history of the school as the center of student activism.
The Beijing protest is one of the first examples of students personally protesting against the chaotic cowardly control on their campus. Students at Nankai University, where they had been confined to the campus for almost two months, hoisted red banners from the university building in early May, criticizing the lockdown system.
Last month at Tongji University in Shanghai, a student representative in a zoom call with school administrators became impatient to discuss food safety and students’ access to showers and toilets when he was not allowed to speak. He wrote in a presentation slide that he quietly shared with the group: “Stop reading your notes. Anyone can do it. Can you unmute us? “
Last month, students at Shanghai’s East China Normal University protested against the ban on bathing. One student, who said he had not taken a bath in 12 days, used black tape on the door of his dorm room and on a shared washing machine to write: “I want to take a bath!”
At PKU, plans to build a wall in Oneliu have been scrapped and students are now able to travel to the main campus, according to students who took part in the protest. According to a university post, in an apparent attempt to calm students, the school installed dance video games in several dormitories.
“It simply came to our notice then. We just wanted to make a normal request, to be able to travel for a little better food, but I did not expect such a normal request to be so difficult, ”said the student who took part in the protest.
“Nevertheless, I did not expect that this small act of resistance would give some people a sense of hope and strength. It shows how difficult it is to resist in this place. “