Xu Zhangrun, the Chinese law school professor known for his outspoken criticism of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, is seeking to overturn the solicitation of prostitution charges that he says was trumped up to justify his dismissal as a professor.
The former Tsinghua University Law School professor – who was expelled from his teaching position for allegedly soliciting a prostitute – has for the first time appeared in public to deny the criminal charge and initiated legal action to clear his name, his friends and supporters told RFA.
After Xu completed his home quarantine, on Tuesday, he formally retained attorneys Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun as his lawyers, his friends and supporters told RFA.
Xu, who had taught at Tsinghua for 20 years, was sacked because of “moral corruption”, according to a dismissal letter issued by the university.
According to sources close the professor, Xu completely denies the police allegation against him of soliciting a prostitute – a charge that emerged after Xu had published a series of articles and open letters critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and its supreme leader Xi Jinping.
“Professor Xu has publicly denied the allegation of soliciting a prostitute. This is sheer fiction, nothing but a frame job. And he never admitted to soliciting a prostitute when he was interrogated by the authorities,” said the friend, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the case.
In December 2019, Xu and other prominent legal scholars went to the Sichuan Province capital of Chengdu for a brainstorming meeting,
Xu was questioned by the Beijing Domestic Security Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, the Beijing Municipal police, and the Chengdu Municipal police.
Authorities in Beijing detained Xu on the morning of July 6 after he called online for political reforms, on allegations of “seeking out prostitutes.”
He was released a week later, but later told the media that he had been fired from his teaching post and subjected to public sanctions for “moral corruption” by Tsinghua University’s law school.
His attorneys will file a request for administrative redress or a lawsuit against the police in accord with his wishes, his friend said.
The authorities have so far failed to produce any evidence of Xu’s suspected involvement in soliciting a prostitute, including mobile phone records, hotel surveillance tapes and transfer records, the source said.
“For the police to successfully prosecute soliciting of a prostitute, they must produce solid evidence. But the public security organs produced no evidence, for example any video,” the source said.
It is understood that Tsinghua University decided to expel him as early as when he was detained, and dispatched an official to the detention centre to read out his expulsion notice.
A fellow Tsinghua University scholar, who declined to be named in order to discuss Xu’s case, described his retention of lawyers as a last-ditch counterattack against the authorities.
Although the Chinese legal system is of limited utility in protecting defendants’ rights, Chinese intellectuals’ use of the legal space to defend their dignity is seen by Xu’s supporters as more important than the result of the case, the colleague said.
Since party general secretary Xi began an indefinite second term in office in March 2018, his administration has stepped up a purge of liberal intellectuals from higher education institutions.
Friends said at the time of Xu’s detention that it could be linked to the publication of one of his books in New York last month, a collection of some of his most controversial essays and articles.
In a 10,000-word essay dated May 21, 2020, Xu described China as isolated from “global civilization,” which would de-Sinicize in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. (Source: RFA)