A Beijing law professor who has been an outspoken critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was released yesterday after six days of detention, his friends said.
Xu Zhangrun (許章潤), a 57-year-old constitutional law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, returned home yesterday morning, but remained under surveillance and was not free to speak publicly about what happened, said one of his friends, who declined to be identified.
Calls to the media departments of the Beijing police and the university seeking comment went unanswered.
Beijing police never confirmed his detention.
Xu first came to prominence in July 2018 for denouncing the removal of the two-term limit for China’s president, which will allow Xi to remain in office beyond his current second term.
According to a text message circulated among Xu’s friends and seen by reporters, he was taken from his house in suburban Beijing on Monday last week by more than 20 policemen, who searched his house and confiscated his computer.
According to Xu’s friends, police told his wife that he was being detained for allegedly soliciting prostitution during a trip to Chengdu, but at least two friends dismissed that allegation as character assassination.
A friend believed that his detention was linked to a book he published last month in New York City that contained a collection of political essays criticizing the CCP’s rule under Xi, Bloomberg reported yesterday.
Since the 2018 article, Xu has written other critiques of the party.
At the peak of the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak in February, he wrote an article calling for freedom of speech.
In May, before the delayed annual Chinese National People’s Congress meeting, he wrote an article accusing Xi of trying to bring the Cultural Revolution back to China.
The US on Tuesday called for Xu’s release.
“We are deeply concerned by the PRC’s detention of professor Xu Zhangrun for criticizing Chinese leaders amid tightening ideological controls on university campuses in China. The PRC must release Xu and uphold its international commitments to respect freedom of expression,” US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a tweet.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg and AFP
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