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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Police disperse student protest in China

May 23, 2009

Chinese police dispersed a crowd of angry student
protesters just weeks ahead of the highly
sensitive 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.
Peter Foster in Beijing
The Globe and Mail
May 20, 2009

Hundreds of students from the city of Nanjing in
Jiangsu Province clashed with local government
security officers - known as 'Chengguan' - during
an attempt to close an illegal roadside stall
being run by students. Police were called to break up the crowd.

A female student was allegedly beaten
unconscious, bringing hundreds of her classmates
onto the streets to protest last Monday night,
according to anonymous testimonies on posted on
public internet bulletin boards. "After the
female student was [reportedly] beaten, her
schoolmates started to yell out slogans and the
students nearby started to gather," a post on Tianya bulletin board said.

"Soon the students outnumbered the Chengguan.
They surrounded the Chengguan and their cars. The
two parties had some physical conflicts. And some people were injured."

However a statement issued by the local
government played down the protests, denying any
students had been beaten or verbally abused or
that students were the target of the Chengguan's
enforcement operation against street vendors.

"Some of the students had mistakenly thought that
two people escorted from the scene by officers
were students, which led to students and citizens
forming a crowd," the statement said.

Onlookers dispersed at 11 p.m. after being
"educated and advised" by the relevant government departments, it added.

Although students protests are not uncommon in
China - most are tied to complaints about poor
living conditions and worthless diplomas - the
unrest comes at a time when Chinese authorities
are seeking to downplay any recollection of the Tiananmen Square protests.

While not overtly political, such demonstrations
also provide an uneasy reminder of the potential
volatility of Chinese students at a time when
China is facing rising graduate unemployment
caused by the global financial crisis.

The incident was not reported in China's national
media, but photographs posted on the internet
showed a large crowd of several hundred students
gathered outside the north gate of the Nanjing
University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Several carried signs with slogans in Chinese and
English, including "non-violence and
non-cooperation" and "help vulnerable social
groups and co-construct a harmonious society,"
mocking a favourite phrase of China's Communist rulers.

According to another anonymous account, the
authorities moved swiftly to contain the threat of unrest.

"When the university heard the news, it sealed
the campus gates immediately to prevent students
from getting out," said the post, which included
photographs of students crowding onto balconies
above the street to support the protest.

It added: "Students who were locked inside the
campus yelled out slogans together with students
on-site, that they wanted an apology from the Chengguan."

Calls to the university authorities in Nanjing went unanswered yesterday.
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