Beijing detains one of Xi Jinping’s most prominent critics

Domestic News

Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun, one of the most prominent critics within China of the leadership of Xi Jinping, has been detained in Beijing. Two other critics, Peking University legal scholar Xu Zhiyong and property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, have been missing for months.

Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, one of the most prominent critics within China of the leadership of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, has been detained in Beijing, the New York Times reports.

He was detained on an accusation of consorting with prostitutes, according to Gěng Xiāonán 耿潇男, a friend who said she had spoken to the scholar’s wife and students…

Professor Xu may join the growing list of critics of the party who have been imprisoned, unless the authorities decide that staining him with a lesser criminal charge — such as soliciting prostitution — is enough and let him go soon. The authorities have used similar charges in the past in what appeared to be attempts to discredit government critics.

Xu reportedly suspected two years ago, when he first penned a major essay criticizing the overbearance of the Communist Party under Xi in 2018, that he may be falsely charged specifically with the crime of soliciting prostitutes, the Australian scholar Geremie R. Barmé told the NYT. Xu was already suspended from teaching at his university in 2019, as punishment for his earlier dissent.

More recently, the Tsinghua University law professor slammed the Chinese government’s early response to the COVID-19 crisis in an essay in February, and was incommunicado in Beijing for weeks afterward.

This year, Xu was joined by two other outspoken voices in speaking out against the government’s failures to communicate honestly with the public about the coronavirus as it ravaged Wuhan in December and January. Those two people, Peking University legal scholar Xǔ Zhìyǒng 许志永 and property tycoon Rén Zhìqiáng 任志强, have been missing for months.