Beijing arrests publisher who defended dissident jurist Xu Zhangrun

Geng Xiaonan, the head of Ruyia Books, was arrested along with her husband on charges of having engaged in an illegal activity. The woman is among those who supported Xu after his arrest in July. For the Qinghua University academic, this led to her arrest.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A well-known publisher who expressed open support for dissident professor Xu Zhangrun has been arrested by the police. Her lawyer announced the arrest yesterday specifying that the woman is accused of having carried out an "illegal activity".

Geng Xiaonan was arrested on 9 September with her husband and taken to Haidian Prison. The couple owns the Ruyia Books publishing house; in recent years it has organized various cultural and artistic initiatives with independent intellectuals and artists.

The 46-year-old publisher organized a trip to Chengdu (Sichuan) with a group of academics last year. They included Xu, who spent six days in prison in July on charges of "soliciting prostitution" during that visit, a charge he denies.

Following this incident, the Qinghua University academic was fired from his post for "moral corruption". Colleagues and friends claim that the authorities fabricated the allegations to discredit Xu - known for his criticism of President Xi Jinping - by destroying his reputation and causing him to lose his job.

He had already been suspended from teaching in 2019 for an article against Xi's lifetime presidency. In February, the jurist had published an article criticizing the "tyranny" of the Chinese Communist Party, guilty of destroying the country’s political system which was on the way to reforms after the death of Mao Zedong.

Geng is among those who defended Xu. According to the former Qinghua lecturer, this led to her and her husband's arrest: “Geng Xiaonan has spoken out for the suppressed, and it is time for us to speak out for her no," Xu told the South China Morning Post.

Last August, in a letter addressed to his students, Xu said that totalitarianism is doomed to failure, and that freedom will eventually come to China. The jurist concluded his message by saying that he would continue to "challenge the authorities until his death".