10/22/2020, 14.55
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Publisher Geng Xiaonan arrested for defending dissident professor Xu Zhangrun

Geng was arrested for illegally publishing more than 8,000 titles on 9 September, along with her husband whose fate is unknown. For Xu, this is an excuse to hold her for defending the academic after he was jailed. The law professor is a well-known critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Beijing prosecutors ordered the arrest of Geng Xiaonan, a well-known publisher who has defended dissident academic Xu Zhangrun, her lawyer Shang Baojun told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Shang said he could not provide additional information since the authorities told him not to speak to foreign media.

Geng Xiaonan was taken into custody on 9 September with her husband, Qin Zhen, whose fate remains unknown.

The couple own the Ruyia Books publishing house, and over the years have organised various cultural events and artistic initiatives with free-thinking intellectuals and artists.

According to press reports, the two publishers are accused of “illegal business operations,” more specifically, of illegally publishing more than 8,000 titles.

Chinese publishing regulations are a grey area. Only state-run publishers are allowed to have International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) and distribution rights, but they often work with private publishers to release popular titles.

Such a system allows the authorities to take action against individuals if they do not agree with the publishing process and content.

Geng, 46, organised a trip to Chengdu (Sichuan) with a group of academics last year. One of them was Xu, who spent six days in prison in July on charges of "patronising prostitutes" during the visit, a charge he denies.

Following this incident, Tsinghua University sacked the academic for "moral corruption".

According to Xu, who spoke to the South China Morning Post two days ago, Geng was arrested for a crime she did not commit; the accusation of illegal activities is an "excuse;” she is paying the price for defending him from the regime's accusations.

In Xu’s case, colleagues and friends believe that the authorities made up the allegations in order to destroy his reputation and get him fired to him after he criticised President Xi Jinping.

He had already been suspended from teaching in 2019 over an article he wrote criticising Xi's lifetime presidency.

In February, the law professor penned another article criticising the "tyranny" of the Chinese Communist Party, guilty of destroying the country’s political system after it undertook reforms following Mao Zedong’s death.

In August, in a letter addressed to his former students, Xu said that totalitarianism is doomed to failure, and that one day freedom will come to China.

The professor of Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law ended his message by saying that he will continue to challenge the authorities until his death.

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