Beijing authorities have detained an outspoken legal scholar on July 6, on charges that his friends say are contrived to “blacken his character.”
Xu Zhangrun, a 57-year-old professor at elite Chinese university Tsinghua, is known for his unsparing public criticism of the ruling Chinese regime.
The police took him from his Beijing home at 5 a.m. July 6, accusing him of soliciting prostitution. His acquaintances said that 20 police officers arrived in a dozen police cars at his residential building.
Meanwhile, his caretaker, who sounded scared and incoherent over the phone, said only two or three people came in, according to Xu’s friend Ms. Geng.
The caretaker “apparently got warnings and told me to stop calling her, saying she has nothing to do with this issue,” Geng said in an interview.
Authorities had placed Xu under house arrest around July 1, the 99th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s founding. Days later, he was freed and organized a house gathering with friends, which Geng attended.
Then, early on July 6, he was suddenly taken away by authorities on suspicion of soliciting prostitution.
“The Chinese Communist Party [CCP] is even more shameless than we can imagine,” Geng said, referring to the charge.
“This is the CCP’s typical smearing tactic.”
Xu has written articles and made public speeches denouncing the regime’s authoritarian rule in recent years.
In early February, he published an article criticizing Chinese authorities’ handling of the CCP virus pandemic.
“Six Chapters from the 2018 Year of the Dog,” a collection of his essays highlighting the threats of autocracy and the need for a political change in China, was published in New York on June 27. The book may have been the final straw for authorities to act, Geng said.
Authorities have gone to great lengths to prevent the book’s publication. Superiors at Tsinghua called him warning of the risks, while a Hong Kong publishing house that initially agreed to publish the book eventually pulled out under pressure.
In March 2019, Tsinghua University, which is state-funded, initiated an investigation on Xu over an article he wrote in 2018 and banned him from lecturing, conducting research, and recruiting students.
“This [book] prompted the final outburst [by authorities],” Geng said.
His friends, who weren’t present during the arrest, have been unable to locate Xu’s whereabouts.
During the Dragon Boat Festival on June 25, Chinese netizens circulated an article with his byline, which criticized authorities’ forced demolitions in Beijing.
“As the pandemic has spread and the country’s south is submerged in floods … the shameless Chinese media are continually showing selective blindness and singing praises to the regime,” the article states. “There is an evil spirit rampaging the human world, so how can we idly standby?”