The Chinese Communist Party placed renowned professor under “close surveillance” after publishing an article criticizing the Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, The South China Morning Post reported Thursday.
Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing – Xi’s alma mater – wrote in a damning article published in various overseas Chinese-language news sites that Communist Party leaders had “put politics ahead of the people.”
“The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered,” he wrote in his piece. “The mess in Hubei is only the tip of the iceberg and it’s the same with every province.”
He also made the point that China’s tight system of control and its initial refusal to warn people about the possible outbreak meant that people were ill-prepared.
This frustration appears to be shared by Chinese people, many of whom have taken to social media platforms to express their anger at government officials for failing to provide enough information and for mishandling the distribution of vital medical supplies to doctors and nurses.
“All chances of public discussions have been smothered, and so was the original alarm mechanism in society,” Xu explained. “The anger of the people has erupted like a volcano, and the angry people will no longer be afraid,”
Xu is a well-known critic of the Chinese Communist Party, having last year been suspended from teaching at Tsinghua University for publishing an article that criticized the party’s decision to scrap the two-term limit for presidents so that Xi can effectively rule the country by decree indefinitely. As well as his suspension, Xu was banned from leaving the country and cannot publish his work freely.
Speaking to the Post, one of Xu’s friend’s expressed concern that his latest act of dissidence could lead to his arrest. “He has already been stripped of his teaching position but he is likely to face more punishment this time,” said the friend, who asked not to be named. “We are concerned they [the police] will take him away now that he has published this article.”
Yet Chinese officials reportedly have no plans to loosen their grip on the spread of information. On Monday, Xi chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee where he declared that officials must step up their surveillance of activity on social media platforms and attempt to shift public opinion towards the idea that China is “winning the war over the virus.” A further meeting was held on Tuesday by the Ministry of Public Security to remind police that their most important priority should be maintaining political security as people’s frustrations begin to boil over.
At least 28,400 people have contracted the virus since its outbreak last month, the vast majority of whom live on the Chinese mainland. However, the virus has been classified by the World Health Organization as an international health emergency due to its spread across Asia, Europe, and North America. Of that figure, 567 people have died while 1,300 have made a full recovery.