Chinese Communist Party graffiti sparks back-and-forth battle on Johns Hopkins University campus

Picture source: Misha Novikov

4th October 2023 – (Baltimore) A graffiti clash between students supporting and opposing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has erupted at Johns Hopkins University, centring around the iconic Jay the Blue Jay Statue.

On Tuesday morning (3rd October), a screenshot of a Chinese student posing for a selfie in front of the Jay the Blue Jay Statue covered in red paint surfaced on popular social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit. The statue’s shield featured yellow stars representing the Chinese flag, the number “74” symbolizing the 74 years since the CCP’s rise to power in Beijing, the word “China,” and a hammer and sickle.

Accompanying the photo, the student wrote in Chinese: “JHU is awesome. Happy National Day.” The student explained that she had spray-painted the mascot in front of the cafeteria to celebrate China’s National Day, and included the Chinese hashtag “#NationalDay.”

Australian political activist Drew Pavlou shared the screenshot, claiming that CCP supporters had defaced the mascot to commemorate “CCP National Day.” However, Kevin Kind, a PhD candidate in the university’s Department of History, retweeted Pavlou’s post and clarified that defacing the mascot is an undergraduate tradition that occurs several times each semester.

Another student at the university, Misha Novikov, shared a link to the university’s mascot policy alongside the screenshot in a separate post on X. According to Johns Hopkins University guidelines, the Jay the Blue Jay Statue was “created by students for students as an outlet to express themselves creatively and spontaneously and promote the Blue Jay spirit.”

The policy allows students to “promote events, programming, and community spirit, and to further the free and open exchange of ideas.” However, there are five main conditions that must be adhered to, including restrictions such as only Johns Hopkins students and staff being allowed to paint the statue, and the university reserving the right to remove any paintings that violate laws or policies.

Novikov also shared a photo illustrating that other students had already responded to the pro-CCP messages with their own anti-CCP graffiti. The retaliatory graffiti featured vulgar Mandarin and English slogans scrawled in black, mocking and cursing Chinese leader Xi Jinping.