How Student Informants are Used for Political Ends in China

February 9, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

The student informant and spy system in China seems to be getting stronger. (Cat Rooney/The Epoch Times)
The student informant and spy system in China seems to be getting stronger. (Cat Rooney/The Epoch Times)
In order to create a “Safe and Peaceful University” the Xi'an University of Technology, in Shanxi Province, turned one in ten students into informants.

The student informant and spy system is strong in China, according to recent documents and reports.

“Chinese educators and Communist Party officials are expanding the Student Informant System to a growing number of Chinese universities, colleges, vocational institutes, and lower level schools,” the CIA reported in Nov. 2010.

“Students designated as student-informant,” says the CIA, “engage in political spying on both professors and fellow students and denounce professors and students for politically subversive or unconventional views.”

Yang Shiqun, professor at the East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai found himself under investigation in November 2008, when two students denounced him as “counter-revolutionary,” to the authorities. Yang had criticized the government in his Chinese classics class. The incident was widely discussed in print and online media.

Xia Yeliang, professor at Beijing University’s Institute of Economics, posted on Twitter on Nov. 5, 2010, about students reporting him to authorities as “anti-party and anti-socialist,” for comments he made in his class. His ordeal was reported by Voice of America (VOA) on Nov. 11.

Recently, a notice to student informants in South China University of Technology was exposed online. Sparking debate was the notice attached, listing 598 student informants.

School authorities hold regular meetings to boost the informants’ morale. For instance, 11 students were named “The Most Outstanding Student Informants” and another 35 were named “Excellent Student Informants,” during a work meeting for student informants held in Guangzhou Auto College of South China University of Technology on Oct. 14, according to a notice published on South China University of Technology’s website on Oct. 20, 2010.

Ubiquitous Monitoring

Student-informants also keep an eye on foreigners. An American who taught in a Chinese university told the VOA that her students often asked for her opinions about issues such as Taiwan Independence and Tibet Independence. Though some students asked her questions out of curiosity, other questions made her feel uncomfortable, she said. Some would profess sympathies with pro-Tibetan independence, and goad her into sharing those views, but when in the schoolyard among their peers say the exact opposite.

Prominent U.S. based political and economic commentator on China affairs, He Qinglian, in an article titled “Today, Are You Being Watched by An Informant?” notes the earliest report on student informants can be traced to Shanghai Normal University’s publishing of “Informants’ function and responsibilities for Shanghai Normal University” on May 21, 2002.

The informant system became widely established in the second half of 2005 when many Chinese Universities tried to recruit student informants and published informants’ working rules via the Internet .

The Xi'an University of Technology, promoted by the Shanxi Province Education Department and Public Security Bureau as “The Safe and Peaceful University of Shanxi Province,” has 2,627 student informants, among its 23,404 students, according to He’s article. This implies one of ten students in the campus is an informant.

Next: CIA report states