Prof Xu Zhangrun, President Xi Jinping’s sworn enemy, is released in Beijing

The legal scholar was arrested for soliciting prostitutes. For his friends and colleagues, he is the victim of trumped up charges, brought against him because of his criticisms of the regime. Meanwhile, the authorities continue to crack down on dissent with sham trials. Human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is appealing his conviction.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Jurist Xu Zhangrun, who became prominent for his criticisms of President Xi Jinping, has been released from police custody, the South China Morning Post reports, citing people close to the suspended law professor from Tsinghua University.

Xu, who returned to his home in Beijing, was arrested on 6 July on charges of soliciting prostitutes during a visit to Chengdu (Sichuan) last summer.

Under Chinese law, soliciting is a violation of public security administration regulations, not a criminal offence. It carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in prison.

For colleagues and friends, the authorities trumped up the charges against Xu, as he is viewed as one of the Chinese regime’s main critics. He was suspended from teaching in 2019 for an article against Xi's lifetime presidency.

In February, the scholar published an article criticising the party’s tyranny and stronghold on the political system, and for its failure to pursue the reforms that had begun after Mao Zedong’s death.

Last May, on the eve of the annual session of the National People's Congress, Xu called on Chinese leaders to reflect on the way they handled the pandemic and apologise for their mistakes.

Xu is not the only intellectual to be targeted by the authorities for saying that the lack of press freedom favoured the spread of COVID-19. Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizens Movement, was arrested on 15 February in Guangzhou (Guangdong).

According to anti-regime activists, the authorities continue to crack down on dissent using false accusations and sham trials.

Recently, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang petitioned a Tianjin Court challenging his subversion conviction and four-year sentence during which he suffered systematic violence.

After his release on 27 April 27, he filed a suit against the police officers and judges responsible for his incarceration, guilty in his eyes of subjecting him to an illegal trial. He wants them to be tried for defamation and torture as well.

Wang was taken into custody in 2015 during a security operation known as the ‘709[*] crackdown,’ which involved 300 lawyers and associates, many of them Protestant and Catholic.

Scores were tried and convicted after “confessing” on video; some came out of prison physically and psychologically broken because of the torture they suffered.

[*] Named after the month, July, and the day, 9th, in which the crackdown began.