Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun, one of China's few outspoken critics of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist government, was brought out of his Beijing home by police on Monday morning.
Xu's close friends who spoke to his family confirmed that he had been arrested and did not know where the police had taken him.
Around 20 police officers surrounded Xu's house on Monday morning, while more than 10 others entered, ransacked the residence, confiscated his computer, and then took Xu away, according to Xu's friends, which was common among Chinese activists.
The police did not make a public statement regarding Xu's arrest or charges.
The Chinese legal expert had taught law and constitutional law at Tsinghua, one of China's most prestigious universities, but was suspended in 2019 after publishing a series of essays criticizing Xi's change to the Chinese constitution to address the president's term limits repeal.
The arrest of Xu is the latest in China's crackdown on dissent and freedom of speech, particularly targeting intellectuals and those who deviate from the Communist Party's story of a state-led victory over the country's coronavirus outbreak. The area of disagreement continues to shrink under the Xi regime, as those who question the party's authority are individually selected.
Novelist Fang Fang, whose published diary portrays the suffering of everyday people during the blockade in Wuhan City and seeks responsibility for government failures, has become the target of nationalist attacks with implicit government support. Several professors who have written articles in support of Fang Fang have been investigated or fired and deprived of their membership in the Communist Party.
Ren Zhiqiang, a real estate tycoon with strong political ties – his father belonged to the generation of communist revolutionaries who founded the People's Republic of China – also disappeared earlier this year after writing an essay in which he described Xi as a "clown" about his dealings with COVID designated -19. The party later announced that Ren was being investigated for "serious violations of laws and discipline."
Several citizen journalists who attempted to report the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan were also arrested. These include lawyer Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin from Wuhan and former CCTV employee Li Zehua, who reappeared in April after two months of missing. Li made a video statement saying that the police acted "civilly and legally" to demonstrate care for him while he was in detention and quarantine.
The others remain missing.
Earlier this year, human rights lawyer and activist Xu Zhiyong (unrelated to Xu Zhangrun) was also arrested in southern China after requesting Xi to resign online. He was part of a circle of dissidents, lawyers, intellectuals and civil society members who met in the port city of Xiamen in December to discuss how citizenship and the rule of law can be built in China.
More than a dozen participants in these meetings were arrested or tried while others are hiding.
Others who have been detained, disappeared, put under house arrest or silenced for threats to their families, jobs and lives in the past few months are lawyers, poets, petitioners, survivors of COVID-19 and their families.
Xu Zhangrun had been under pressure since 2018, long before the pandemic, for expressly criticizing China's current political situation. His essays are both literary and analytical, simultaneously meeting the Party's authority and offering political proposals for change, all with a poetic zest.
In his first article in 2018, titled "Our Impending Fears and Hopes," Xu Xi criticized the lifting of time limits, the suppression of intellectuals, excessive spending on foreign aid while domestic inequality worsened, and China's retreat to a period of isolationism and Cult of personality. Politics led.
Xu urged officials to disclose their personal wealth and to end the system that provides senior managers with access to better health care, resorts, and safe food.
According to this essay, Xu was suspended from teaching, placed under house arrest several times, and, according to his friends, prevented from leaving China. But he kept writing.
In February, at the height of the Chinese Coronavirus outbreak, when freedom of speech seized the nation after the death of a whistleblowing doctor, Xu wrote, "The angry people are no longer afraid," an essay in which Xi and the " ethically bankrupt “Communist Party for prioritizing its power over the lives of Chinese citizens.
"It is a system that turns any natural disaster into an even bigger man-made disaster," Xu wrote. "The coronavirus epidemic has exposed the rotten core of Chinese governance."
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After this essay, Xu was again placed under house arrest and cut off from the Internet regularly. He was aware of the impending detention: "This could be the last thing I write," he said in the essay. "But it's not up to me."
According to his colleagues, he was able to meet regularly with friends and colleagues for dinner.
In May, shortly before China 's national political meeting in Beijing, Xu wrote a final essay entitled "China, a lonely ship in the vast ocean of global civilization", complaining about China' s continuing decline towards totalitarianism and re-accountability and The release of detained journalists. Freedom of speech, protection of property and transparency.
"Enough with this mold-infested god-making movement, this flat worship of the leaders," he wrote. "Enough with these seven years of absurdity and confusion, step backwards step by step, these 70 years of mountains of corpses and oceans of blood …"
He signed: "With indignation, worry and sadness."