Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.
Chinese police on Monday detained prominent legal scholar Xu Zhangrun, one of the few academics in China who still dared to openly criticize Xi Jinping’s leadership. Xu’s arrest is further evidence that under Xi, times have changed for well-known intellectuals who were once spared detention for airing measured grievances about the government.
Xu first drew widespread attention in 2018 when he denounced Xi’s hard-line policies in an essay that The New York Times described as a “rare rebuke” of China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. He continued to publish writings that chastised and ridiculed the Chinese Communist Party and the cult of personality that had formed around Xi’s rule. In 2019, Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, where Xu taught constitutional law, suspended him from teaching and placed him under investigation.