Tsinghua University suspends Prof Xu Zhangrun for criticising Xi Jinping

The law professor questioned the abolition of the two-term limit for the presidency and vice-presidency of the Chinese Communist Party as well as the development of a cult of personality around Xi. For intellectuals and friends, the university's decision is a clear form of punishment. Restrictions have been taken against "unpatriotic" scholars since a new ideological campaign was launched last August.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tsinghua University, one of Beijing’s most prestigious universities, has suspended Prof Xu Zhangrun, 56, a renowned liberal law professor, after he openly criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping, his colleague Guo Yuhua, who teaches sociology at the same university, told the South China Morning Post.

In some articles widely circulated online, Prof Xu criticised the decision to change the Constitution to grant Xi the lifetime presidency of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as the development of a cult of personality around him.

Xu’s suspension occurred this month. He was excluded from all teaching and research activities related to his profession.

Prof Guo also reports that her dissident colleague was placed under investigation by the university, which has refused to take any questions from the media.

Experts believe that Xu was suspended as part of a new ideological campaign against "unpatriotic" intellectuals, which the Chinese government launched last August.

As a result of this campaign, all those deemed unwilling to carry “forward the spirit of patriotic struggle” were placed under restrictions.

Xu’s friends and colleagues came to his defence, believing that the university was out to punish the scholar.

Well-known writer Zhang Yihe was one of the first to speak out in support of Xu, saying on social network WeChat Zhang that she stood by him “not because of politics or conscience” but out of friendship.

According to Guo, Xu was being penalised because of his critical articles. “Maybe they didn’t like what he wrote,” Guo said. “But it’s against the law and an unreasonable thing to do.”

For Zhang Qianfan, a constitutional law professor at Peking University, “Xu was penalised by Tsinghua not because he said something radical or inappropriate, but because he made some just and honest comments that others dared not make – because free speech is in a difficult situation” in China.