Xu Zhangrun, the outspoken critic of China’s leadership who was taken into police custody last week, returned to his Beijing home on Sunday morning, sources told the South China Morning Post.
“As I learned, Xu returned home about 7.30am and was taking a shower and resting,” Wang Bin, a writer and close friend said of the Tsinghua University professor.
“He’s well. I think he will tell the details later himself.”
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The Post was unable to reach Xu for comment. A police officer at Beijing’s Changping branch, which oversees the area where Xu lives, said he was unaware of the case.
Xu was detained on Monday, and police officers told his wife then that he would be released on Sunday, Wang said.
Despite some people fearing the academic might be held for more than a week, Zhang Ming, a political-science professor at Renmin University and friend, said he was always confident Xu would be freed.
“I predicted Xu would be released within a week, because the community of intellectuals no longer poses a threat [to Beijing],” he said. “The ones who can do the most harm are the princelings, like Ren Zhiqiang.”
Ren, a property tycoon and critic of the Communist Party, has been in detention since March and is under investigation for alleged “serious violations of law and discipline” after criticising Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Police had earlier told Xu’s family that he was suspected of soliciting prostitutes in the southwestern city of Chengdu. While doing so is not a criminal offence, it is a violation of public security administration regulations and carries a maximum penalty of 15 days’ detention.
“But because the authorities lacked credibility, the public didn’t believe Xu would do that, so it was difficult for them to continue with the case,” Zhang said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty following Xu’s case. Anything could happen,” he said. “But if he shuts up and stops criticising the authorities, that might be it, the authorities may not bother him again.”
Xu is one of just a handful of Chinese academics to have openly criticised the party, which has tightened its grip on the nation’s universities.
The 57-year-old professor was suspended from teaching by Tsinghua University last year after he published an article criticising the decision of China’s leaders to lift the two-term limit for presidents.
In a strongly worded article published in February on Chinese-language websites overseas, Xu accused China’s leaders of “putting politics above the people”.
In May, on the eve of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Xu published another lengthy commentary saying China should not be complacent after its early successes in the fight against Covid-19, which has since killed more than 560,000 people around the world.
In the article, he urged the nation’s leadership to rethink its handling of the epidemic and apologise for its mistakes. He also suggested a monument be erected in Wuhan – the central China city at the epicentre of the initial outbreak – to serve as a memorial and an expression of remorse.
Xu is not the only intellectual to have been detained recently for speaking out against the party. In May, Shanghai-based scholar Zhang Xuezhong was taken from his home by police after writing an open letter to NPC deputies in which he criticised China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and called for an overhaul of its political system. He was released a day later.
Meanwhile, Hubei University professor Liang Yanping was banned from teaching last month for expressing sympathy for the Hong Kong anti-government protesters. She also came under fire online after voicing her support for Fang Fang, the award-winning novelist who documented life under lockdown in Wuhan.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Outspoken Chinese law professor Xu Zhangrun taken away by police, friends say
- ‘We must carry on’: Chinese government critic and liberal icon Xu Zhangrun vows to keep saying ‘what needs to be said’
- Coronavirus: Chinese professor targeted after praising Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary
- Chinese scholar Zhang Xuezhong returns home after questioning over call for political reform
This article Chinese Communist Party critic Xu Zhangrun released after week in detention, sources say first appeared on South China Morning Post