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A century of student activism in China

How China’s original activists remain influential today
Student activism in China dates back 100 years, but since their emergence as a political force in 1919, students have influenced and inspired landmark protests across the 20th century and beyond.

Event details
Date and time:
Tuesday 7 May, 6 – 7.30pm
Venue: Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium
The University of Sydney (Camperdown/Darlington Campus)
Entry: free and open to all with online registrations required.

On 4 June 1989 the world watched on in horror as the Beijing spring protests by Chinese students were brutally repressed by military intervention. The foundation for that momentous and tragic event was laid in Beijing on 4 May 1919 when students took to the streets of the Chinese capital for the first time to protest the terms of the Versailles treaty. From that day on, student activism became an almost constant element and 'students' emerged as important advocates for political thought and practice.

In the anniversary year of both May and June Fourth, our esteemed speakers will reflect on a century of student activism and how it informs the 21st century Chinese landscape. China has evolved dramatically in the last century and even 20 years on from the Tiananmen Square protests, and today's student activists face entirely different challenges to their predecessors.

Our speakers will re-assess the legacy of China's original activists and its implication for today's generation of politically active students. 

This event is co-presented with China Studies Centre.

The speakers

Fabio Lanza is professor of modern Chinese history in the departments of History and East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing (Columbia University Press, 2010) and The End of Concern: Maoist China, Activism, and Asian Studies (Duke University Press, 2017); and co-editor (with Jadwiga Pieper-Mooney) of De-Centering Cold War History Local and Global Change (Routledge, 2013).

Timothy Cheek is professor and Louis Cha Chair in Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Institute of Asian Research and Department of History, as well as being director of the UBC Institute of Asian Research. His books include The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History (2015), Living with Reform: China Since 1989 (2006), Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions (2002) and Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China (1997). From May-June 2019 he is a Sydney China Distinguished Fellow in the Department of Chinese Studies.

Ruth Hayhoe is a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, with more than 35 years of professional experience in China, Japan and Hong Kong. Her most recent co-edited books include Religion and Education: Comparative and International Perspectives (2018), Comparative and International Education: Issues for Teachers (2017) and Canadian Universities in China’s Transformation: An Untold Story (2016).

Wanning Sun FAHA is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, UTS. She is best known for her ethnography of China’s rural migrant workers, and for her critique of the cultural politics of social inequality in China. She is also known as the first English-language researcher to publish on dagongpoetry. Her analyses of Zheng Xiaoqiong’s work can be found in Subaltern China: Rural Migrants, Media and Cultural Practices (Rowman & Littlefield 2014), and in her forthcoming book Love Troubles: Inequality in China and Its Intimate Consequences.

Dr David Brophy studies the social and political history of China’s northwest, particularly the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and its connections with the Islamic and Russian/Soviet worlds. His first book, Uyghur Nation (2016), is on the politics of Uyghur nationalism between China and the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century. He currently holds an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship, for a project entitled 'Empire and Religion in Early Modern Inner Asia', in which he is exploring Inner Asian perspectives on the rise of the Qing in the 17th-18th centuries.

Event information

This event is free and open to all but online registration is essential.

Simply click the 'Register now' button or follow this link.

Entry to ticket holders will be prioritised and given on a first-in, best-dressed basis until the room reaches capacity. If an event is full, this may result in standing room or delayed admittance until an appropriate time.

We recommend early arrival to allow time for finding the venue and securing a seat to the event. Doors open 30 minutes before the advertised start time. 

If you could not register but would like to attend, you are welcome to join a stand-by queue on the night as seats may become available due to late cancellations. Please note, this is not guaranteed so you come at risk of non-admittance.

This event takes place at Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, which is the building opposite Charles Perkins Centre on John Hopkins Drive (next to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital), off Missenden Road. 

You can also enter via the Ross Street entrance: the venue is next to the ovals.

There will be directional signage on the day leading to the theatre. You may also refer to the map on this page. 

By public transport

The closest bus stop is the University of Sydney Ross Street Gate, Parramatta Road (Opposite Glebe Officeworks). It is a five-minute walk to the venue. Use the campus map to locate the bus stop. You can take the bus from Central Station (routes 412, 413, 436, 438, 440, 461, 480). 

This venue provides wheelchair access and infrared hearing system.

Access requirements

If you have other access requirements or want more information, get in touch with us on 9351 2943 or email sydney.ideas@sydney.edu.au with 'Access | May 7 - activism' in the subject line at the earliest opportunity to allow us time to organise for any additional services in time for the event.

Parking is very limited on campus, which means your best options are to find street parking (around Glebe and Forest Lodget) or locate a private carpark near the University. We recommend you take public transport, walk or cycle in.

You're welcome to use Shepherd Street Carpark or Western Avenue Carpark but these have limited spaces, available on a first-come basis. To find out fees and more details, head to the Parking page.

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