A Hong Kong-based labor rights group on Friday called on authorities in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen to release all detained workers and their student supporters, 100 days after the first raids on a unionization campaign at Jasic Technology.
"China Labour Bulletin [CLB] calls on the Shenzhen authorities to immediately release all those still in detention as well as those detained subsequently for nothing more than demanding for workers' legal right to establish a trade union," the group said in a statement on its website.
Some 30 workers were detained on July 27, with four facing charges of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."
According to CLB, the former Jasic campaigners haven't been allowed to see their lawyer since Oct. 1, and one of the lawyers has now been pressured by the local authorities to resign from the case.
"These workers were willing to stand up to the widespread and long-standing management abuses at Jasic Technology, including the underpayment of social insurance contributions, and understood that the most effective way to defend the interests of their co-workers was by unionizing," CLB said.
The call came a day after a rare protest on the campus of Nanjing University in the eastern province of Jiangsu over the authorities' banning of a Marxist study group.
Marxist and Maoist activists, many of them students, had flocked to Shenzhen to support the Jasic workers' cause, with some of them taking jobs in the factory.
However, dozens of members of the Jasic Workers' Solidarity Group (JWSG) were themselves detained in a mass raid on their temporary accommodation on Aug. 27. According to CLB, many were subsequently released, but 11 remain under some form of house arrest.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has responded with a clampdown on student activism on campus, banning Marxist study groups, punishing students at Peking University, Renmin University and Nanjing University.
Protest over treatment
Protesters held banners and shouted defiance outside Nanjing University's canteen on Thursday over the treatment of students who wanted to put Marxist theories into practice by supporting workers' movements.
"Some students are demonstrating in the school canteen because the officials of the school refuse to give an explanation and the students are regularly being tracked by some plainclothes [police] recently," according to a tweet posted by the @xiaozimurong Twitter account, with a video clip showing the protest.
"What have we been doing in the Marxism Research Club? We only read Marxist works ... What is wrong about that?" a young man shouts at a crowd of bystanders, as a large banner flutters nearby.
"If they have a problem with that, why don't they come out and say so. Why are they oppressing our members? Why are they using shameless and underhand tactics?" the man shouts.
"Come out and debate with us. You don't dare, and that's why you are using such tactics to suppress ... our fellow students. Is it acceptable that they do such things to make us disappear?"
As an unidentified woman appeared to try to restrain another protesting student, the man said the students had staged the protest after asking for an explanation from the university and receiving none.
"We came here after waiting three days for some kind of response, and that's why we are standing here today. We will not forget. We want answers," he said. "They have been threatening our families and they want to punish our students with expulsion."
A university lecturer surnamed Liu said the detentions coincided with a nationwide ideological campaign waged by the administration of President Xi Jinping on Chinese campuses.
"There is definitely a movement towards greater ideological and political management in higher education institutions," Liu said.
"I saw a slogan [recently] that called for a firm hand on the ideological battlefront in schools and universities, and that universities should take a stance."
Meanwhile, Cornell University recently suspended an academic partnership with Beijing's Renmin University (Renda) after a crackdown on Chinese students who supported the Jasic workers' movement.
Eli Friedman, director of international programs for Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said the school had suspended cooperation with Renda after it had punished, surveilled or suppressed students who supported workers trying to unionize at Jasic Technology.
Yue Xin, a graduate of China's prestigious Peking University and former #MeToo campaigner remains incommunicado after being detained alongside dozens of others on Aug. 27, the JWSG said in a recent open letter.
Renda philosophy major and JWSG member Yang Shuhan said in a video statement posted to YouTube on Sept. 1 that she was mobbed, robbed and threatened by unidentified persons before trying to board a train to resume her studies in Beijing, and later asked to take a year's leave of absence.
Another undergraduate student, Zhang Zihan, was criticized by the teacher in front of all the students, and told to delete any content on the social media platform WeChat about the Jasic campaign.
While revering Mao as the leader who founded the People's Republic on Oct. 1, 1949, the party has also torn down locally funded statues of Mao in recent years, reflecting official concerns over the potential use of the Great Helmsman's image as a focus for millions of poor and dispossessed people in China.
Government censors have shut down a number of Maoist websites in recent years. The Red Flag Network website's editor Wu Lijie was detained and the site shut down after he made a trip to visit the Jasic campaign in Shenzhen.
Chen Hongtao, editor-in-chief of the Red Reference website said in August that its offices in Beijing's Fangshan district had been raided at around the same time as the JWSG members were being detained in Shenzhen.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.