Last year he shouted "down with Li Peng" during the former Chinese premier’s funeral. Chen refuses to plead guilty. Many inside and outside China have criticised the Communist Party for its handling of the pandemic crisis.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Police arrested Chen Zhaozhi, a retired professor from the Beijing University of Science and Technology, on 14 April in Beijing.
He ended up in the crosshair of the authorities and nationalists after he said that the COVID-19 is not a "Chinese virus" but a "Chinese Communist Party virus", linking the origin and spread of the lung disease to the actions of China’s communist regime.
Formally, Chen was arrested for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”. But for his lawyer, Ma Gangquan, his arrest is an act of "revenge" by the police department.
The scholar had been monitored for some time. Last year, outside Beijing's Babaoshan crematorium, he shouted " Down with Li Peng!" on the day of the former premier’s funeral. Li Peng played a major role in the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989.
Chen, who is currently held at the Haidian Detention Centre in Beijing, has high blood-pressure and has previously suffered a stroke.
A few days before he was taken into custody, police searched his home, checking the contents of his mobile phone and taking away his computer.
Despite pressure from the authorities, he has refused to plead guilty, his lawyer said, convinced that what his statements come under freedom of expression.
According to several observers, the Communist Party of China is trying to silence anyone who questions its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, with the support of Chinese nationalists.
In parallel, two other scholars have come under investigation for supporting the "Wuhan Diary" by writer Fang Fang, who describes life in the capital of Hubei province, the epicentre of the pandemic, during the lockdown.
For her, the abuse of power by the authorities prevented rapid and effective action against the disease.
After expressing similar criticism of the regime, many other intellectuals have disappeared. Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong is held in a secret prison for "inciting subversion against state power."
Since February, nothing is known about Xu Zhangrun and He Weifang, for whom the lack of press freedom facilitated the spread of the coronavirus.
China’s Communist Party has also been criticised from abroad. Card Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, recently said that the Party is accountable for the pandemic.
In a worldwide appeal, an international group of academics, lawmakers, political leaders and lawyers called on the Chinese people to stop uncritical support for the communist regime, guilty of causing the current pandemic crisis.