Harsh lockdown curbs prompt student protests, expulsion

A postgraduate student at Ludong University in China’s Shandong province who protested against the university’s harsh COVID-19 lockdown and mass testing was this week expelled by the university following a warning by police.

The student, Sun Jian, held up a sign on 27 March on the university campus which said ‘Unblock Ludong’ and another saying ‘Resolutely oppose high nucleic acid testing for all staff’ and walked with the signs through different parts of the university campus “for about 20 minutes”, according to an official report by the local Public Security Bureau which said Sun’s actions “seriously disrupted the order on campus”.

He had also complained in a letter to the university administration that he felt he was in a ‘detention centre’ rather than a university.

The security bureau said it issued a warning to Sun after he posted videos of himself holding up the placards. It said Sun continued to oppose the university and “incited students to boycott” the university’s measures in WeChat and other social media posts.

According to a university statement dated 31 March, seen by University World News, Sun, a student in the Chinese history department, had published many comments on his social media accounts and elsewhere since December last year criticising the university’s epidemic and prevention control measures, and had continued to do so despite the university attempting to ‘educate’ him.

The university maintained that Sun’s behaviour “seriously violated national laws” and it was therefore expelling him.

Sun said in an interview with Radio Free Asia this week that “the students at Ludong have become highly dependent on daily express deliveries for their day-to-day existence. Online shopping is now an indispensable part of their lives, but the school banned it across the board.”

According to Sun, foreign students and family members of teachers were allowed to come and go freely, but Chinese students were banned from leaving campus.

“Excessive disease control measures have sowed panic among students. I think the PCR testing of all staff was unnecessary and also caused huge disruption to students’ studies, and their daily lives,” he said, adding that he had expected to be punished by the university and planned to file an official complaint against the university administration.

“I feel that my behaviour fell purely within the scope of freedom of speech,” he said. “I did abide by the disease control regulations that I didn’t agree with.”

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