Professor Xu Zhangrun recently penned an essay, criticising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s role in the outbreak in the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Since the publication of the essay, Professor Xu has been in house arrest! He has also allegedly been removed from the Chinese Social Media. Some of his friends have claimed that Professor Xu has stopped receiving Internet services!
In his essay ‘Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear‘, Professor Xu launched direct attacks on Government control and resistance earlier in February (2020). Dr Li Wenliang, a Chinese whistleblower Ophthalmologist, died on February 7. He was the first person who wanted to warn his colleagues about the Coronavirus on WeChat on December 30, 2019. However, the Security Department reportedly controlled his moves, including phone calls, and also punished the Wuhan Central Hospital doctor. Since his demise, strong public opinion has been formed against the Government censorship!
Professor Xu Zhangrun
Hong Zhenkuai, a Chinese historian and a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo, said: “Dr Li’s death has thoroughly exposed the ills of the party’s governance and control; this has a huge impact on people’s minds.” He also said: “There is no space for freedom of speech in China now.” Hong stressed: “The impacts on the individuals are multi-faceted. Economically, they would cut off your livelihood (academics get fired, writers can’t publish and no one dares hire you). You would get sidelined by mainstream society, you’d lose friends and, worse than that, you might lose your personal freedoms. So, a number of intellectual elites have chosen to leave China.” However, a section of the Chinese intellectuals is of the opinion that the Coronavirus outbreak would not change the Communist Party of China’s policies, and the decision-making process.
While writing the essay, Professor Xu mentioned that he was ready to get punished! He said that he had already been suspended from teaching and had “freedoms curtailed” over critiques published nearly a year earlier. “I can now all too easily predict that I will be subjected to new punishments; indeed, this may well even be the last piece I write,” he wrote at the end of his latest essay.
Dr Li Wenliang
One of Professor Xu’s friends, who wished to remain anonymous, has confirmed that the Police placed the professor under house arrest immediately after he returned to Beijing from his home town in Anhui Province after enjoying the Lunar New Year break. “They confined him at home under the pretext that he had to be quarantined after the trip,” the friend stressed, adding: “He was, in fact, under De Facto house arrest and his movements were restricted.” Initially, two guards were stationed in front of his residence round the clock and a car with a signal box facilities for sending signals was also parked. Security agents went into his house to issue warnings to Professor Xu. Although the restrictions were lifted late last week, his Internet connection has been cut off. The friend further said: “He tried to get it mended, but found out that his IP address has been blocked. He lives on the outskirts of Beijing and is far away from shops and other services. Under the current Coronavirus situation, things are very difficult for him.”
Since the publication of his essay, Professor Xu’s account has been suspended on WeChat. As a result, many of his friends have been unable to get in touch with him via the Chinese messaging app. His name has also been deleted from Weibo, a Twitter-like micro-blog, while calls to his mobile phone go unanswered.
It is to be noted that the trend of Censorship has grown a lot in China since Xi Jinping became the President on March 14, 2013. Experts believe that the Xi Administration’s censorship policy and the undemocratic environment in the Asian Nation have led, in a way, to the Coronavirus outbreak. A democratic nation could easily take precautionary measures, and minimise the damage…
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