Xu Zhangrun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Xu Zhangrun
BornOctober 1962 (age 60)
Anhui province,[1] China
Alma materSouthwest University of Political Science and Law
China University of Political Science and Law
University of Melbourne
Occupation(s)Law professor, jurist
Known forCriticism of Xi Jinping

Xu Zhangrun (Chinese: 许章润; pinyin: Xǔ Zhāngrùn; born October 1962) is a Chinese jurist. He was a professor of Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and a research fellow with the Unirule Institute of Economics. His dissident writing having previously caused retributions by the authorities, in July 2020 he was detained for a week and subsequently barred from leaving Beijing. Observers believed this to be the result of an essay in which Xu sharply criticized the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in China under Paramount leader Xi Jinping.


Xu received his bachelor's degree from the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, a master's from the China University of Political Science and Law, and in 2000[2] a PhD from the University of Melbourne.[3]


Xu's research specializes in jurisprudence, Western legal philosophy, constitutional theory, and the relationship between Confucianism and law. He is the author of a book on the Australian legal system.[2]


In July 2018, Xu published an essay, translated as "Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes", where he rebukes the recent policy shifts of Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, including the abolition of term limits and the restoration of a cult of personality, which is notable for being a rare expression of public dissent.[4] The essay has been translated into English by Geremie Barmé.[5] That essay received some commentary from Western scholars.[6][7] Xu had been suspended and put under investigation.[8] The article proposed to restore the Chinese Chairman's tenure system, namely, from the life tenure system instituted under Xi's rule on 11 March 2018 to the fixed-term system that perdured between 1982 and 2018. The article prompted discussion among Chinese people about the changes. Some supported it, while some were worried about the safety of Xu. The article was published at a time of tension in China, which included the China–United States trade war as well as reports of inner-conflicts among senior Chinese Communist Party officials.[9] The article emphasized that the public, including bureaucratic officials, were concerned about personal safety issues as well as the direction of national development. Xu claimed that these fears were due to the breaking of four basic principles by the ruling class, namely, public security, respect of private property, tolerance of the population's life freedoms, and the term limit in political governance.[10]


In April 2019, friends reported that the authorities had prohibited Xu from leaving the country. He was stopped from boarding a flight to Japan on a trip authorized and funded by Tsinghua University.[11] He was defended by other intellectuals, such as Zi Zhongyun, whose 2019 essay, "Mourning Tsinghua", attacked the action of Tsinghua authorities as the "latest round of 'book burning and burying scholars'".[12]

In February 2020, Xu published an essay, "Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear",[13] condemning the Chinese government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.[8][14] Xu describes how the government banned the reporting of factual information during the outbreak and connects this problem to a larger freedom of speech issue in China.[8][14] After the publication of this essay, Xu disappeared and his friends were unable to get in touch with him for a time.[14] His account on WeChat was suspended and his name was scrubbed from Weibo.[14] According to his friends, the requirement of authorities for him to quarantine in Beijing after returning from a Chinese New Year holiday in Anhui, his home province, was a pretext for his de facto house arrest.[14]

On 6 July 2020, Xu was detained by Chinese police at his home in Beijing,[15] being accused of speaking critically about China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[16] He was released from custody on 12 July 2020.[17][18] Subsequently, Xu was fired from his job at Tsinghua University.[19] Both the US State Department and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who mentioned Xu in connection with the 709 crackdown, said that the EU:[20][21]

also expects the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release, without any restrictions on their movement or work, all lawyers and legal activists imprisoned or persecuted by the authorities for their work before and since the '709 crackdown', such as Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan and Ge Jueping.

Following his arrest, Xu was blacklisted by vendors, and after his release, he was put on an online blacklist which barred him from receiving donations from the public. In September 2020, artist and book vendor Geng Xiaonan was arrested together with her husband, ostensibly on charges of illegal business activities, but Xu said it had been because she had spoken out in his support. He put himself at the forefront of an effort by Chinese dissidents to publicize the difficulties of the couple.[22]

In an essay published in December 2020, Xu wrote about his experience of being permanently monitored by security cameras in his compound in Beijing; while remaining free, he was not allowed to leave the city.[23][24]


  1. ^ Peter, Thomas (7 July 2020). "'The rot goes right up to Beijing': Why detained professor Xu Zhangrun is such a threat to China's leadership". AAP. Retrieved 25 January 2021 – via The Conversation.
  2. ^ a b Bagshaw, Eryk (6 July 2020). "Chinese police arrest prominent critic of Xi Jinping with ties to Australia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Xu Zhangrun". Tsinghua University School of Law. Tsinghua University School of Law.
  4. ^ Buckley, Chris. "As China's Woes Mount, Xi Jinping Faces Rare Rebuke At Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  5. ^ Xu, Zhangrun. "Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes — A Beijing Jeremiad (Translated by Geremie R. Barmé)". China Heritage. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  6. ^ Backer, Larry Catá (17 August 2018). "Law at the End of the Day: 孙晓义评许章润:我们当下的恐惧与期待/ Flora Sapio, Thoughts on Xu Zhangrun: Our current fears and expectations". Law at the End of the Day. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  7. ^ Backer, Larry Catá (16 August 2018). "Law at the End of the Day: 白轲评 许章润:我们当下的恐惧与期待/ Larry Catá Backer, Thoughts on Xu Zhangrun: Our current fears and expectations". Law at the End of the Day. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Buckley, Chris (26 March 2019). "A Chinese Law Professor Criticized Xi. Now He's Been Suspended". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  9. ^ Lam, Willy Wo-Lap (4 December 2018). "Who are Xi Jinping's Enemies?". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  10. ^ Wang, Yun; Shen, Hua; An, Ke (27 July 2018). "清华教授许章润吁恢复主席任期制" [Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun pleads for the restoration of term limit of presidency] (in Simplified Chinese). Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  11. ^ Lau, Mimi; Mai, Jun (28 April 2019). "Chinese liberal icon vows to keep saying 'what needs to be said'". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  12. ^ Zi, Zhongyun (2019), translated by Geremie R. Barmé, "Mourning Tsinghua 哀清華", China Heritage
  13. ^ Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear
  14. ^ a b c d e Yu, Verna; Graham-Harrison, Emma (15 February 2020). "'This may be the last piece I write': now a Xi critic's words ring true". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  15. ^ VanderKlippe, Nathan (6 July 2020). "Police seizure of Chinese scholar and critic raises new fear of academic repression in Hong Kong". The Globe and Mail.
  16. ^ Buckley, Chris (6 July 2020). "China Detains Law Professor Who Took On Party, Friends Say". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Tian, Yew Lun; Munroe, Tony; Mallard, William (12 July 2020). "China releases professor who criticised President Xi, friends say". Reuters. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Outspoken Chinese professor is said to be released from detention". The Globe and Mail. Reuters. 12 July 2020.
  19. ^ Westcott, Ben; Gan, Nectar. "Critic of China's Xi Jinping allegedly fired from top university". CNN. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  20. ^ "EU urges China to free activists on crackdown anniversary". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. 8 July 2020.
  21. ^ "China: Statement by the Spokesperson on the 5th anniversary of the "709 crackdown" on human rights lawyers and defenders". European External Action Service. 8 July 2020.
  22. ^ Bei, Ming (15 September 2020). "Chinese dissenters who were helped by Geng Xiaonan return the support after her arrest". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  23. ^ Xu, Zhangrun (17 December 2020). "Cyclopes on My Doorstep (Translated by Geremie R. Barmé)". SupChina (www.supchina.com). Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  24. ^ Lau, Mimi (9 February 2021). "Chinese businesswoman Geng Xiaonan jailed after voicing support for Beijing critic". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 10 November 2021.