Chinese Student Expelled From College After Protests, Filming

china-zhang-wenda.jpg Zhang Wenda in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Zhang Wenda.

A student who tried to blow the whistle on what he called his illegal detention and torture at the hands of campus security guards in the central Chinese province of Hunan has been denied permission to finish his degree for "political" reasons, he said.

The case comes amid growing reports of a hard-line approach to any form of dissent being taken by authorities in the province, as part of a nationwide drive to "maintain stability" ahead of annual parliamentary sessions next week.

Zhang Wenda, 20, who began his studies at the Changsha Social Work Technical College in the provincial capital in 2010, was suspended from the university for a year in September 2011 after being beaten up and detained by campus security guards, he told RFA's Mandarin Service.

"I would spend the nights in a disused classroom, because the dormitory environment wasn't conducive [to sleep]," Zhang said.

"One evening, some campus security guards found me and beat me up with wooden truncheons."

Zhang said the beating was likely linked to his habit of filming the security guards' activities on his cell phone.

"People would give the guards money and cigarettes and other gifts, and the guards would give them parking or entrance permits [to campus]," he said. "I filmed a lot of this sort of thing, and it made them angry."

"They tied me up, threw me up in the air, and let me fall to the ground repeatedly," he said. "As they were doing that, they were asking, 'Will you still be filming us now?'"

"They held me in illegal detention for 17 hours," he said. "They only let me out the next day because my parents kicked up a huge fuss."

No help from police

Zhang said local police, who had "a good relationship" with the guards, did nothing after he reported the incident.

"They just came and had a few words with them and left," he said.

Zhang said he had alerted local media organizations to the behavior of the security guards. "But they never got back to me."

He said the authorities had alerted the school's political mentor, whose job it is to ensure that students express views acceptable to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

He said the guards had accused him of threatening to commit suicide as a form of protest.

Refused reinstatement

Zhang expressed a number of dissenting views during his year of suspension, including taking part in an anti-Japanese demonstration in 2012 during which he shouted: "I don't love a country that doesn't love me. This country should reform."

Eventually, Zhang said, he was detained for calling publicly for political reforms at that protest and for being outspoken at other public events.

He began to apply for reinstatement in late 2012, when the year's suspension was up, but was repeatedly refused.

"My political mentor told me himself that I was 'an unstable element' and that he wouldn't approve my return to the college," he said.

However, the college declined to put this decision and this appraisal in an official letter, in spite of repeated requests, he said.

"I haven't even had an official notification. My right to education has been taken away from me."

'Paranoid disorder'?

Sun Minjiang, who heads campus security at the college, denied Zhang had been beaten or tortured.

"He used to be a student here ... but he has a paranoid personality disorder and is making this up out of nowhere," Sun said.

"It's not me who's out to get him; he slanders me all over the place, including on the Internet," he said.

He said of the alleged beating: "He was about to commit suicide, to jump off a building, and then he ran away, so we merely restrained him."

"This student is totally in the wrong. You should talk to the college authorities and have the leaders say something."

Meanwhile, Zhang's political mentor Xiao Li declined to comment in detail on the case.

"You should come to the college if you want to find out what actually happened," Xiao said.

Asked if Zhang was beaten, he replied: "Why are you asking me? I wasn't the one who beat him."

Calls to the Communist Party secretary of the college's pastoral department rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Allegations of mental illness and suicide are frequently used by local authorities to silence rights activists and those who complain about mistreatment at the hands of officials and law enforcement agencies.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie

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