One of the more under-reported stories in China is the discontent that many students at second tier universities feel. Over the past couple of years, there have been several cases of unrest over issues that speak to the economic insecurity that many of China’s young people feel—particularly if they don’t go to elite universities like Fudan or Tsinghua. Here’s the latest, from a military school in Anhui. The apparent issue here, as it’s been in a few other of these violent outbursts over the last couple of years, is whether the diploma the students receive from the school is legitimate—ie, will it be recognized as such by prospective employers (particularly government employers)– or whether, as the RFA dispatch reprinted here in its entirety puts it, the diploma “is fake.”
HONG KONG—Thousands of military academy students in central China’s Anhui province are rioting after news spread that the government wouldn’t recognize diplomas awarded to the fee-paying students, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.
“It was total chaos. Many people were beaten and were bleeding. The school buildings are a mess,” one student, surnamed Peng, told RFA’s Mandarin service.
“There is a 15-story building on campus. It’s been vacated. The iron doors in the corridors were smashed. In the morning armed police and police cars arrived to restore order. Their attempts were futile. Police cars were overturned,” Peng said.
“Even the automatic iron gates on campus were wrecked. The situation is really tense now. I hear that either tomorrow or the day after the Nanjing Military Region will send personnel to restore order.”
The rioting began Nov. 28 and worsened Nov. 29, witnesses said. Classes have been cancelled and windows smashed. It wasn’t immediately clear whether anyone had been injured.
The Hefei PLA Artillery Academy comprises three types of students: Fully registered cadets with military status, fully registered students without military status studying for civil degrees, and self-funding “contract students,” according to the academy’s Web site.
“The students rioted because they are angry that their diplomas are fake,” Peng said, estimating that 6,000 to 7,000 self-funded students had joined the rioting. “The school sent military personnel to mediate. The students beat them and drove them away—even the military officers. Everyone is like an angry lion now.”
A female administrator at the Academy confirmed that rioting was going on. Asked if the rioters were students, she replied that all were students from “the sixth department… They are informal students without military status.”
A teacher at the academy, surnamed Ren, denied that rioting had occurred but added, “It could happen to any school. There are always some students who do not want to study. Right?”
“The majority of the students are good students. Those [who do not like to study] will be severely dealt with. What do the students know? Including the seniors. They have not even gotten their diplomas yet.”
“Only a small number of students with their own agenda were fanning the fire. I have told you too much already. If you are a reporter, I advise you not to touch things related to a military academy,” Ren said.
Some students have posted complaints online indicating that that they had started rioting because neither the Education Ministry nor the Military Commission would recognize their diplomas. “On no account enroll at the Artillery Academy. On no account enroll at the Academy’s sixth department,” said one posting.