Many years ago I had the pleasure of speaking at Tsinghua University, which is considered one of the best educational institutions in China. I was impressed when the faculty at the university struggled to remain intellectually active under the repressive controls of the communist regime. It is a dangerous existence as scientists fear that they will write anything that annoys the government. Now one of the most famous law professors in China, Xu Zhangrun, has been arrested. Xu predicted the move after he recently wrote an article criticizing the government's response to the corona virus. His colleagues were forced to remain silent at the risk of their own arrest. The arrest comes at a time when many are concerned about the loss of freedom of expression in this country, not by the government, but by private companies and universities. I have punished the faculty across the country for their silence, given the increasing intolerance to conflicting views on campus and measures against professors who have divergent views on the current protests. Indeed, many have followed the call for such punitive measures. Xu is an example of the courage that scientists in countries like China have shown to face threats to their freedom and even their lives.
Xu was under house arrest and was removed from his Beijing home on Monday. He has shown amazing courage to speak out against totalitarianism China's current leader, Xi Jinping. According to reports, he may have been charged Solicit prostitution in Chengdu City with other liberal academics. The accusation is ridiculed by many as absurd, especially when Xu knew that he would continue to be monitored.
The police confiscated all of these computers and records, another clue to the real motive for the arrest.
Xu was prevented from teaching due to his dissenting views at Tsinghua University. When he wrote about the corona virus, he explained that it would probably be his last column.
He was right.
Xu is an inspiration for all who believe in freedom of speech and academic freedom. This is also a warning story about the ultimate cost of how language regulation can quickly become retaliation for those with divergent views about campus. Such dangers are not limited to totalitarian nations. Intolerance to free speech in this country can have the same deterrent effect as professors observing colleagues who are being investigated for unpopular views or are being campaigned to end them. Even journalists have been forced to accept conflicting views.
Fortunately, we are not facing China's totalitarianism. However, freedom of speech and academic freedom are also attacked in this country. As an academy, we have to gather around Xu and the principles that he steadfastly defended for all academics in order to express divergent views and values.