Zhang says young Chinese being arrested for practicing Marxism — the official ideology of the Communist Party — poses the latest conundrum for the country’s leadership, whom he blames for feigning interest in Marxism in order to maintain a guiding principle.

“Since the current leader came to power, many colleges have established Marxist study centers, and that leads to a conflict for the ruling party,” says Zhang. “You’re brainwashing the youth with Marxist theory, but by doing so, you’re giving them a tool to fight against the government.”

It’s also a tool young people can use to defend themselves when authorities arrest them, says Zhang. “It’s like a child using his ancestor’s tombstone to protect himself from an abusive parent.”

The Renmin University student from the countryside says he learned this lesson over the summer, when he chose to work at a toy factory hundreds of miles from Beijing to beef up his Marxist credentials. Instead, it was a lesson on the realities of working at a Chinese factory.