05/04/2020, 13.04
CHINA
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Two Chinese academics under investigation for supporting the 'Wuhan Diary'

Writer Fang Fang’s diary is set to be published in June in English. This has sparked an avalanche of nationalist criticism. Two scholars have been accused of "inappropriate speech". Many intellectuals who criticised Beijing over its handling of the pandemic crisis have disappeared.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Two academics are under investigation for expressing support for the Wuhan Diary, in which the writer Fang Fang describes life in the capital of Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, during the lockdown.

An English-language version of the diary is set to be published next month, a step that has triggered a nationalist backlash.

For Chinese nationalists, China’s government cannot be criticised while the United States and its allies question its credibility. The reference is to suspicions that Beijing lied about the origin and spread of the COVID-19 disease.

The first academic to be targeted by state censorship is Liang Yanping, a professor of language and literature at the University of Hubei.

On 26 April, after the academic came out in favour of Fang Fang's work on social media, the university where she teaches said it would investigate her “inappropriate speech".

Four days later it was the turn of Wang Xiaoni, a retired professor from Hainan University. Wang tweeted her support for Liang's remarks. The university immediately started proceedings against her.

Trolls are accusing Wang of lack of patriotism. Fang has been treated the same way.

Fang compared her critics to the Red Guards, a student-led paramilitary group that supported the Cultural Revolution.

Speaking about Fang Fang’s critics, Guo Yuhua, a professor of sociology at Tsinghua University, says that despite economic reforms, Maoism remains China’s basic ideology.

According to Fang Fang, the abuse of power by the authorities and social injustice prevented a rapid and effective action against the coronavirus.

In her view, the real heroes in the fight against the pandemic are the people stuck at home, as well as doctors, nurses and volunteers.

She said those responsible for delays in response should resign and be tried.

Many intellectuals disappeared after attacking the government for its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was taken to a secret prison for "inciting subversion against state power.” He had urged Xi to resign over his failures. Xu was arrested on 15 February in Guangzhou (Guangdong).

Since February, there are no news about Xu Zhangrun and He Weifang, according to whom the lack of press freedom favoured the spread of the coronavirus.

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