Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins(REUTERS)
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins(REUTERS)

Top Xi Jinping critic arrested in China

Xu Zhangrun published an essay in February blaming the culture of censorship under Xi for the spread of the coronavirus in China.
Beijing | By Sutirtho Patranobis | Edited by Prashasti Singh
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2020 09:08 PM IST

Beijing police arrested a law professor who had criticised President Xi Jinping’s style of functioning and recently questioned the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic on Monday.

Xu Zhangrun, 58, was arrested from his house in a Beijing suburb, Geng Xiaonan, his friend, told Bloomberg. She got to know about the arrest from his domestic helper, wife and students, Geng added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at regular ministry briefing that he had no information about the arrest.

Xu had published an essay in February, blaming the culture of censorship under Xi for the spread of the coronavirus in China. Xu wrote, “China’s leader system is itself destroying the structure of governance”, adding that the chaos in the first virus epicentre of Hubei province reflected systemic problems in the Chinese state.

But that essay was only the most recent of Xu’s scathing critiques of Xi and his rule.

“In a series of essays published from early 2016 to early 2019, Xu questioned at length, and in detail, the political, economic and cultural trajectory of the People’s Republic of China under Xi Jinping, the leader of the nation’s party-state-army,” says the e-journal, China Heritage, affiliated to the Wairarapa Academy of New Sinology in New Zealand.

A China Heritage article on Xu says in late July 2018, Xu published ‘Immient Fears, Immediate Hopes’, a 10000-word article. In it, Xu not only questioned Xi Jinping’s ‘dispensation’, he also offered concrete policy suggestions to “…counter the authoritarian revanchism” (or a policy to retaliate) of Xi’s ‘New Epoch’.

In some of his essays, Xu didn’t even take President Xi’s name.

In March, 2019, Xu told selected foreign media that he had been placed under investigation by the Tsinghua University. At the time, Chinese state media was quick to slam Xu.

“Several politically extreme articles have made Xu stand out from dissidents in China since 2018... He must be certain that one cannot keep his teaching position for long at a top university with an open stance of political confrontation. His stand has forced the university to adopt a different attitude,” the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times had reported in March, 2019.

“The treatment Xu has received may not surprise those familiar with him. One can never find a top university in any country tolerating a professor with such an aggressive anti-establishment view,” it said.

Xu, GT reported, had told the media during his interaction in March, 2019, that he “could end up in prison” for his writings.

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