China arrests law professor who criticised Xi over coronavirus

Xu Zhangrun, a law professor and critic of China’s Communist Party and president Xi Jinping, was arrested on Monday, his friends and colleagues have said.

In February, Xu published an essay that appeared on overseas websites. In the essay, he blamed the practice of censorship promoted by Xi for the spread of the coronavirus in China, and said that the chaos in the epicentre of Hubei province reflected systemic problems in the Chinese state.

“It began with the imposition of stern bans on the reporting of accurate information about the virus, which served to embolden deception at every level of government”, Xu wrote. His friends said that police also searched his house and confiscated his computer.

Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since Xi took power in 2012. The Communist Party has been repeatedly condemned by rights activists for using charges such as “disciplinary violations” to silence its critics.

In March, Chinese property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang has gone missing after criticising Xi’s response to the coronavirus. It was later revealed that he had been placed under investigation for “serious violations of discipline and law”. Ren had called Xi a “clown” over a speech the president made about the government’s efforts to battle the coronavirus.

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