Student Backlash Over Lockdowns Spreads to Guangzhou as Trash Piles Up, Food Prices Soar

By Alex Wu
Alex Wu
Alex Wu
Alex Wu is a U.S.-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on Chinese society, Chinese culture, human rights, and international relations.
September 25, 2020Updated: September 25, 2020

China’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to mandatory COVID-19 lockdowns at universities across the country has triggered increasing dissatisfaction and protests among college students.

After Xi’an International Studies University students were reported shouting from their dormitories against the campus lockdown, students at Guangzhou Institute of Technology (GIT) followed suit, shouting and protesting from their dorms at midnight, videos circulating online have shown.

Students have told The Epoch Times that trash is piling up around their dorm buildings in mounds, letting off an unbearable stench. Rats are also running around, and the convenience stores and cafeteria on campus have been hiking up their food prices.

But while students have been required to stay in lockdown on campus, faculty and staff have been free to move around, leading to desperation from the students

Dorms Surrounded by Garbage

A senior student at GIT, who prefers to go by the name Zhang Ming, told the Chinese language Epoch Times that every dormitory in the school was surrounded by big piles of trash like “hills.” The trash has been fermenting for more than one week, but the school’s management has been slow at addressing the problem.

China colleges
Trash piling up outside the dorms at the Guangzhou Institute of Technology, China. (Supplied)

“The trash bins are very small, and not every dormitory has them downstairs. You can imagine, an average of more than 1,000 people in each building rely on a garbage dumpster that is less than 5 cubic meters. The garbage is not collected from the dumpster on time, and it’s piled up like a mountain in just half a day,” Zhang said.

Guangzhou Institute of Technology, China
Trash piling up outside the dorms at the Guangzhou Institute of Technology, China. (Supplied)

A student who goes by the name Wang Xi described the trash crisis in the school as “tragic beyond comprehension.”

“The pungent smell of the trash dump has drifted into the dormitory, and it is so disgusting to smell it, and a lot of rats are running around. It’s scary, and there are a lot of mosquitoes too.”

“In this environment, bacteria breed. How can we live there? And the shower water is yellow. How can we take a shower?”

Wang said they really can’t bear it anymore.

China student lockdown
A dormitory of Guangzhou Institute of Technology during a COVID-19 lockdown in September 2020. Students complained of trash piling up and unsanitary conditions. (Supplied)

Faculty and Staff Move Freely

The school has blocked the movement of all students on campus, while at the same time, the government has relaxed pandemic control measure in the community.

Public places such as karaoke bars, movie theaters, and libraries are open for business. Even inter-province traveling is allowed. But students on campuses are still in lockdown, while faculty and staff move about freely.

Some students reviewed the policy released by the Ministry of Education on Aug. 27. It said that students would only be allowed to “go out for essential business,” and that teachers and other personnel would follow the same principle.

Zhang Ming said of the policy, “It says that teachers and students are treated equally. But those teachers, staff, and delivery people go in and out freely, only the students are locked up. This is just a fake lockdown, which does not achieve the purpose of quarantining the school.”

Soaring Food Prices, Shortened Holidays

In addition to the long-term unresolved trash issues, a series of other problems have made student life hard to bear during the pandemic. Convenience stores and cafeterias have hiked up food and grocery prices due to the school’s monopoly on campus, students told The Epoch Times.

A student named Zhao Jing said: “(The school) forces us students to spend on campus, but the prices at the convenience stores on campus are 50 percent higher than the price outside. The selling price is unmarked, so that the store can charge any price at will and we are often charged more at the checkout counter. This is obviously unfair and the school is bullying us students.

“All the goods in the on campus stores have no marked price. I was told a price on the first day, and it rises the next day,” Zhao said.

There are also long waiting lines at the cafeteria every day.

Zhang Ming said that the waiting time for food at peak time in the cafeteria is at least half an hour. Takeout food from outside can only be delivered through the school fence.

What further angered students was that they heard that the school is only allowing them four days off during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Holiday, which is eight days long by law. If any students need to leave the school, they have to get approval from class counselors and signatures from their parents.

Guangzhou Institute of Technology
Official document shows students at Guangzhou Institute of Technology have only been given four of eight mandated days off for China’s upcoming National Holiday and Mid-Autumn Festival. (Online screenshot)

A student at GIT told The Epoch Times, “Many schools in Guangzhou now have a full eight days off for the national holiday, which is regulated by the State Council. Why do Guangzhou Institute of Technology students only have four days off? And you have to give various reasons to leave the school for the holidays? It’s unfair treatment. What I want now is fairness.”

Colleges Protests Growing

Such dissatisfaction from students has not been limited to GIT. On Sept. 20, students at Xi’an International Studies University protested against a lockdown at their school, which also caused the cafeteria food prices to increase. Students were heard shouting out loud together from their dormitory for nearly 30 minutes, as shown in the online video.

On Sept. 21, due to another school lockdown, students of Hefei University of Technology in Anhui Province were heard screaming into the night from their dormitory.

Students of Guangdong Medical University also protested against their school’s fees and money making from students in various ways. They protested by writing complaints on the walls of school buildings.

Chinese students protest
Students write on the wall in protest against the school‘s price hiking during lockdown at Guangdong Medical University’s Dongguan Campus in China. (Online Screenshot)

Gu Xiaohua and Ling Yun contributed to the report.