An outspoken former Chinese law professor has hired a legal team to defend him against charges of soliciting prostitution, saying he hopes to disprove the allegations that have damaged his client’s reputation, his lawyer told VOA.
Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun was recently fired for “moral corruption” and publishing articles that undermine the Communist Party of China, according to the dismissal notice from his employer. Before that, he was detained for a week in early July on charges of soliciting prostitutes in the southwestern city of Chengdu last year.
The outspoken liberal scholar, who just finished a 14-day quarantine at home, met with lawyers Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun, as well as disbarred rights lawyer Pu Zhuqiang on Tuesday, and officially hired Mo and Shang to represent him in a case against the Chengdu police.
According to Mo, Xu dismissed all accusations by the Chengdu police, adding that they did not provide evidence that he had solicited prostitutes, such as video footage, audio recordings or bank records.
Mo said they planned to file an “administrative reconsideration” application to overturn the administrative ruling by the Chengdu police for soliciting prostitution.
He noted there was a big hurdle in fighting the charges.
“The Beijing police did not give him the administrative penalty statement issued by the Chengdu police over this alleged crime, and it would be difficult to submit the review application without it,” Mo told VOA.
Shang, the other lawyer, said that at the end of Xu’s detention, the Beijing police would not let him go unless they could keep the document. At present, the only official document that Xu has is the dismissal letter issued by Tsinghua University.
Chengdu police did not respond to VOA’s request for comments.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly targeted Xu for his essays critical of President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party. Chinese activists and intellectuals sounded alarm at Xu’s detention and dismissal.
Sociologist Guo Yuhua appears to be the only current Tsinghua professor still willing to speak out publicly for Xu. She told VOA that the fact Xu did not fight his dismissal does not mean he agrees with the university’s decision.
“A call to a woman equals soliciting prostitutes? Where’s the evidence? As for the new guidelines by China’s Ministry of Education, does that go with our constitution?” she asked. “Tsinghua made the decision to expel him while he was still in detention. Why in such a rush?”
Guo was referring to a regulation quoted in Xu’s dismissal notification, which read, “We have verified that Xu Zhangrun has published many essays since July 2018, and it is a serious violation of the ‘10 standards of professional conduct for teachers in tertiary institutes in the new era.’ ”
China’s Ministry of Education issued a set of new guidelines in 2018, prohibiting teachers from engaging in any activity that undermines the authority of the Communist Party or violates the directions and policies of the party.
“Teachers have to be patriotic and uphold academic integrity,” the guidelines said.
Guo said Tsinghua’s decision to dismiss Xu has deviated from Tsinghua’s motto of “independent thoughts and free spirit,” damaging its reputation.
Very few current faculty members and students at Tsinghua have publicly discussed Xu’s case.
“It’s not surprising that people are self-censoring themselves in today’s tightly controlled environment,” Guo said.
Yet nearly 600 Tsinghua alumni came to support the former law professor, raising more than $15,000 in donations for him.
In an open letter to his former colleagues and students, Xu expressed appreciation for their backing and said totalitarianism is doomed to failure, and freedom will eventually come to China.
He also declined the donation, saying that the money should be sent instead to those in greater need.
VOA has tried to contact Xu without success. His WeChat account showed that the option to add him as a friend was not available. People familiar with the matter said his WeChat has been blocked.