Peking University claimed to have uncovered and eliminated an “illegal organization” with a goal of subverting state power that had infiltrated the school’s Marxist Society, according to a message sent to students Wednesday and shared with CNN.
The university, long a haven for liberal intellectuals and known for its history of student activism, has been regularly ranked one of the best in the country.
In a separate memo, the Peking University committee of China’s ruling Communist Party declared the establishment of an “internal control and management” office to enforce discipline on campus, including day-to-day inspections and patrols on school grounds.
The Beijing-based university warned that students would “bear consequences” if they decided to become involved or support labor rights movements, according to another message sent to students on Wednesday and seen by CNN.
Zhang Shengye was attacked and dragged into a car last Friday on Peking University campus by several people in black jackets, according to a widely circulated open letter.
“Someone used his arm to put me in a headlock and pushed me forward … My glasses were missing in the chaos, and I was pressed to the ground,” said the letter’s author, Yu Tianfu, who is a current student and fellow activist.
“I struggled to say, ‘Who are you? Why can you do such a thing?’ A man pointed to my head before I could finish and said ferociously, ‘Stop shouting, otherwise I will beat you again.'”
University officials called Yu’s assertions “seriously inaccurate” and said the student was bruised when struggling with law enforcement officials on the scene, according to a message sent to students.
CNN has reached out to Peking University for comment but has yet to receive a response.
The on-campus arrest happened shortly after the arrival of a new Communist Party chief at Peking University, Qiu Shuiping, who was formerly the top state security official in Beijing between 2013 and 2014.
Analysts at the time pointed to Qiu’s appointment as an indication the Chinese government wanted to pull the student body into line.
The clampdown at Peking University also comes ahead of several politically sensitive anniversaries next year, including the May 4 student protests in 1919 and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which students from the university played prominent roles.
Activists and analysts have pointed out the irony of the socialist Chinese government, led by the theoretically pro-worker Communist Party, cracking down on young Marxists.
Xi in particular has been enthusiastically pushing the country to embrace its Marxist roots following his ascension to the head of the party in 2012.
The new security measures have their roots in a labor dispute in southern China, where a group of workers’ failure to obtain government permission to set up a trade union triggered protests and nationwide support from left-wing students.
But as public attention grew, the authorities quickly tightened the net around the young protesters, leading to the detention and disappearance of student activists — including several recent graduates from Peking University.
CNN’s Ben Westcott contributed to this article.