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    Top Chinese Student’s Animal Cruelty Videos Spark Admissions Debate

    The student reportedly posted videos online of himself abusing animals, including one where he drowns a cat in a bucket of water. The incident has ignited a nationwide discussion on the role of morals in university admissions.
    Apr 07, 2024#education#ethics

    The refusal of one elite Chinese university to admit a student with a history of animal abuse — who’s now being considered at another top university — has sparked a nationwide debate on the importance of integrating moral assessments in the admissions process.

    The student, identified only as Xu and an engineering graduate from Southeast University in the eastern Jiangsu province, allegedly posted videos online showing him abusing cats. According to domestic media reports, one video shows Xu pressing a cat’s head into a bucket of water with his feet.

    Animal protection organizations have alleged that Xu was a member of an animal abuse group and had long posted animal cruelty content on Telegram and other overseas social media apps.

    The allegations of animal cruelty surfaced last week after Nanjing University, an elite institution under China’s “985” initiative, denied Xu admission to a postgraduate program despite him ranking first in the preliminary written test. The university stated that Xu had failed the second part of the admission process, which includes an interview.

    Nanjing University confirmed to domestic media that some of the information circulating online was accurate. Asked if the cat abuse incident influenced the decision, a member of staff was quoted as saying, “These actions could potentially have an impact.”

    However, Xu soon appeared on the entrance exam list of Lanzhou University, also part of the “985” initiative. According to the university’s schedule, a review of all applicants’ qualifications, including Xu’s, began Sunday, followed by a written test and an interview over the next two days.

    Lanzhou University did not disclose whether Xu had participated in the exam, and the department did not respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comments. However, a comment section on the university’s social media account indicated a significant public response, with many urging the university not to admit a student with poor character.

    In China, universities are mandated to include assessments of ideological and moral qualities in the postgraduate candidate selection process, and they have the authority to deny admission based on these evaluations. According to the national postgraduate entrance guidelines published by the Ministry of Education in 2022, universities are encouraged to conduct external investigations to determine if a candidate possesses the requisite moral character.

    Over the last week, discussions around the issue dominated Chinese social media, with many condemning the student’s cruelty while praising the university for prioritizing morals in its decision making.

    A series of related hashtags have trended on the microblogging platform Weibo, with one titled, “Top scores in grad school entrance don’t excuse poor character,” garnering over 40 million views. “Your capabilities lead you to the top, but morals keep you there,” stated one comment.

    Despite the widespread criticism, Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times and a controversial opinion leader, on Sunday called for leniency. “The act of posting animal abuse videos is a serious mistake and an indicator of psychological issues,” Hu wrote on Weibo. “However, our society should provide (Xu) with the opportunity to correct his behavior, and give this young man a way out and hope.”

    This isn’t the first time a university student has been involved in animal cruelty. In September 2023, a college student from central Henan province was expelled for cats on fire and posting the videos online.

    Last year, domestic outlet Red Star News reported that an online black market sold video clips of cats being abused. According to the report, 30 gigabytes of videos were sold for just 10 yuan ($1.4).

    Currently, there are no exclusive laws against animal cruelty in China. While specific laws protect livestock, poultry, wildlife, and laboratory animals, experts have warned that there remains a legislative gap concerning “companion animals” such as cats and dogs. Citing lawyers, domestic media reported that spreading or selling cat abuse videos online did violate legal standards. “Public security departments can respond with measures like administrative detention, fines, admonitions, and warnings, depending on the severity of the incidents,” one lawyer was quoted as saying. 

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: VCG)