A Chinese academic who penned an essay blaming the coronavirus pandemic on President Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism and censorship has been released after not quite a week in detention, his friends have told AFP.
Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, was taken from his home in the capital by way of a group of a lot more than 20 people on July 6, in accordance with associates.
He came ultimately back home on Sunday and was well, two friends confirmed to AFP on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In an essay published on overseas internet sites, Xu wrote that the leadership system under Xi — China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong — was “destroying the structure of governance”.
He said having less openness contributed to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which first appeared in China late last year and finally spread globally after Communist Party officials tried to suppress initial news of the contagion.
It was not straight away clear whether he would face further repercussions.
Beijing police didn’t immediately react to an obtain comment on Monday.
A friend of Xu’s told AFP on July 6 that a man claiming to be police called the professor’s wife to say he had been arrested for allegedly soliciting prostitutes, that your friend dismissed as “ridiculous and shameless”.
The professor — a rare government critic in the heavily censored world of Chinese academia — was put under house arrest a week just before being taken into custody, the friend had said.
In a previous essay circulated online, Xu spoke out against the 2018 abolition of presidential term limits, which left Xi free to rule for life.
After Tsinghua reportedly banned Xu from teaching and research in 2019, countless Tsinghua alumni — and academics around the globe — signed an on line petition calling for his reinstatement.
‘A crackdown on dissent’
The US and the EU the other day called Xu’s detention a human rights violation, pressing for his release.
“It’s good news that Professor Xu has been released, but he should have not been detained in the first place,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Wang called the prostitution accusation “laughable”, saying it was a typical government tactic used to smear and silence critics.
Xu is just the latest in a wave of intellectuals swept up in what critics say is a crackdown by Xi on dissent in all spheres of public life.
Legal scholar Zhang Xuezhong was shortly detained by Shanghai police in May after publishing an open letter criticising Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus and calling for a democratic government.