Xu Zhangrun: outspoken detained in China

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Xu Zhangrun was arrested on Monday


A professor who criticized how China handled the coronavirus crisis has been arrested by authorities.

Xu Zhangrun, who was under house arrest, was taken to his Beijing home on Monday, friends said.

The law professor has already spoken out against the Mao-type personality cult that returned under the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The police did not comment publicly on the arrest and the charges against Mr. Xu are unclear.

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A friend told the AFP news agency that Mr. Xu’s wife had received a call informing him that he was accused of soliciting prostitution in Chengdu City with other liberal academics.

The friend dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous”.

Freedom of expression is tightly controlled in China, as those who denounce the authorities risk being arrested and sentenced to prison terms.

“Mentally prepared”

Friends say that up to 20 people appeared at Mr. Xu’s house early in the morning, seizing his computer and papers.

Geng Xiaonan, a friend of the professor, told the New York Times that he was “mentally ready to be taken away.”

“He kept a bag with clothes and a toothbrush hanging on his front door so he was ready for it,” she said.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing said that Mr. Xu was taking an increasingly dangerous route.

He had been prevented from teaching at Tsinghua University – one of the best institutions in the country – after speaking out against the removal of presidential term limits, allowing Mr. Xi to remain in office for life.

He was placed under house arrest earlier this year after publishing an article criticizing how President Xi and the government handled the coronavirus epidemic. He suggested that it might be the last he had ever written.

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